The Real Dirt on the Codes of Practice

The Real Dirt on the Codes of PracticeBy Kristen Kelderman, Farm & Food Care’s Farm Animal Care Coordinator

As Canadians, we are very fortunate to have many privileges that others do not. Our great nation boasts the luxuries of real maple syrup, moose sightings, caffeinated beverages from Tim Hortons and the Royal Canadian Mounted Police to name a few.

But did you know that Canada also stands out on the world stage when it comes to farm animal care? In Canada, we have Codes of Practice for 14 different farm animal species. They are often referred to in the farming community as the Codes.

So what are these Codes? They act as our standards for farm animal care and handling across Canada.

The first Code was developed in 1980. All are now the responsibility of the National Farm Animal Care Council (NFACC).

Each Code has requirements and recommendations within each document and contains other useful information on caring for farm animals.

I like to say that if you wanted to become a farmer tomorrow, the Code could serve as your guide book for what you needed to know for animal care. The Code won’t teach you how to milk a cow or how to formulate a diet for your pigs, but it explains what is expected for the health and welfare of the farm animals.

Many countries have standards and rules around animal care, so what makes the Codes so special? It’s actually the unique development process and group of people involved.

Each Code is updated by a Code Development committee of industry stakeholders. They include veterinarians, scientists and academics, transporters, the food and restaurant industries, Canadian Federation of Humane Societies, government and farmers. It’s quite a diverse group of industry experts and professionals that has yet to be replicated in other parts of the world.

But before the Code development committee even meets, a scientific committee is organized to compile a collection of all the research and academic information available globally on farm animal care related to that species. This information is used as the basis for developing content for the Code.

Once the scientific committee has completed its review, the code development committee presents a first round draft. This first draft is then open to a public comment period. During this allotted time period anyone can submit comments for review on the content of the Code. The number of comment submissions has ranged from 120 to over 4,700.

The Code development committee then meets to discuss the comments they’ve received and how to move forward with the collected comments. Based on this information, they work to produce a finalized document.

According to NFACC, the end result “is a Code that is scientifically informed, practical, and reflects societal expectations for responsible farm animal care.”

The whole process takes about two years. It’s not a quick process, but it’s a thorough one.

Final decisions are consensus-based meaning that every member of the development committee must agree. You can imagine that it could take some time for everyone to agree on each requirement and recommendation within the Code.

Because of this process, our Canadian Codes of Practice are recognized around the world.

To find more information or to see the full version of each Code visit www.nfacc.ca and look under the Codes of Practice tab.

Bringing the Codes into the 21st century.

If you’ve ever picked up a copy of any Code of Practice or scrolled through the pdf version online, you’ll quickly see that that they are large and extremely detailed.

In an effort to help present information in the Code in a unique and novel way, Farm & Food Care’s IMPACT program (Innovative Management and Practical Animal Care Training) is currently developing interactive modules for each updated Code. Each module covers the requirements in each section of the Code and has supplemental questions and activities that users must complete related to the recommendations outlined in the Code.

Users must complete all the questions and activities to receive their certificate indicating that they are competent and understand the content of the Code. It takes about an hour or two to complete the full module.

If a farmer hires a new employee or needs a refresher on the Code content, they can log in and navigate through the module at their own speed. The intent of these modules is to increase the reach of the Codes and provide alternative ways for people to understand them and their content.

To learn more about IMPACT visit www.farmIMPACT.ca.

Farmers continue to invest in the best practices for their animals and do the right thing on their farms every day. The Codes are a great example of that.

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