By Magpie Group
Guiding animal care across the country
For farmers and ranchers, caring for their animals is a huge responsibility. So how do they know they’re doing it right?
At the core of all farm animal care programs in Canada are the Codes of Practice: research-based guidelines that outline the standards for the care and handling of farm animals. The Codes are meant to ensure animals are managed appropriately, receive quality care and humane treatment and experience positive welfare throughout their lives.
The Codes of Practice are:
- Educational tools for farmers and ranchers to assist them with managing their animals better
- A point of reference for regulations and laws to help government and regulators determine when animals are not being cared for properly
- A basis for animal welfare assessment programs to make sure animal welfare standards are being followed.
- An outline of the MINIMUM standards of care for each animal species
Each animal species has their own Code of Practice. This includes beef cattle; bison; chickens, turkeys and breeders; dairy cattle; deer; fox; goats; horses; mink; pigs; pullets and laying hens; rabbits; salmonoids (salmon, trout and char); sheep; and veal cattle.
Animal welfare is a term that covers both the physical and mental wellbeing of an animal. Good animal welfare means an animal is growing or producing normally, is healthy, free from pain and injury and displays normal behaviour. This also includes having access to feed and water, and protection from poor weather, disease and predators.
Meeting the needs of many stakeholders
Developing the Codes is a complex process that involves many people. The National Farm Animal Care Council (NFACC) oversees their development, and people with a wide range of expertise work together to develop them so each one is optimized for the species it protects.
Code development is initiated by the national organization representing each farm animal species, which is also responsible for making certain that the Code is followed. For example, the Code for dairy cattle is led by Dairy Farmers of Canada; the Code for pigs is led by the Canadian Pork Council; the Code for laying hens is spearheaded by Egg Farmers of Canada – and so on.
Every code goes through a rigorous review process before it is adopted. The Scientific Committee, consisting of scientists and veterinarians, reviews the latest research and prepares a report on priority topics that need to be considered. This information is shared with the Code Development Committee, consisting of animal welfare groups, farmers and ranchers, food retailers (like grocery stores and restaurants), veterinarians, animal scientists, government and members of the public.
This process ensures that each Code is based on science, is practical for being implemented on farms, and reflects society’s expectations for responsible farm animal care.
DYK? Every Code of Practice is reviewed on a five-year basis. You can find them all at www.nfacc.ca.
What’s in a Code?
Each Code includes Requirements and Recommendations for specific information related to animal housing, care, transportation, slaughter and processing, and other aspects related to raising animals for food.
Requirements are the critical tasks or actions that everyone must do to properly care for the animal species they are farming. They often set the standards for provincial and federal laws. Anyone who fails to follow these rules will be forced to take corrective action. On the other hand, Recommendations complement the Requirements by promoting farmer education and continual improvements in animal welfare. It is important to note that failure to follow the recommendations does not mean animal welfare standards are not being met as those are covered in the requirements.
The Code of Practice for the Care and Handling of Pigs, for example, includes specifics about:
- Housing and handling facilities – design and construction of housing to provide suitable space, air quality, lighting and temperatures, flooring and bedding for different ages of pigs including groups and individuals
- Feed and water requirements – the amount of both that pigs need throughout various phases of life
- Disease prevention and management – health management plans, cleaning standards to prevent disease, pest control, how to take care of sick and injured pigs
- Handling and transportation – on-farm and beyond the farmgate, includes handling, moving, restraining and treating the animals
- Euthanasia – plans and instructions for methods that minimize or eliminate pain and distress
Listening to Canadian voices. It’s important that all Canadians are comfortable with how farm animals are raised. Anyone who feels strongly about animal welfare can comment on the Codes during the development or review periods. The Code Development Committee reviews every comment and revises the Codes to address concerns.
The Codes of Practice are valuable, practical tools for farmers that guide their day-to-day animal care and management activities. They ensure consistent animal welfare and are the basis of industry led, species-specific animal care programs like:
- Pork – Canadian Pork Excellence (CPE)
- Beef Cattle – Verified Beef Production Plus (VBP+)
- Dairy Cattle – proAction®
- Chicken – Raised by a Canadian Farmer Animal Care Program
- Chicken – Start Clean-Stay Clean®
Farmers take raising animals seriously and want to do as good a job as possible. They recognize that healthy, content animals result in productive, high quality and safe food for Canadians. Following the Codes of Practice help them do just that.
Farmers work hard to provide for their families, care for the animals they raise and grow food safely and efficiently. The decisions they make daily influence their ability to produce nutritious and high-quality food in a sustainable, responsible way that ensures future generations can continue to farm. Canadian agriculture has created sustainability and farm stewardships initiatives to guide production and management practices in almost every sector.
Learn more about these programs here:
- Protecting Biodiversity: Environmental Farm Plans
- Healthy Soil For Today And The Future: 4R Nutrient Stewardship
- Encouraging Responsible Use Of Pesticides: Pesticide Applicator Licence
- Recycling On The Farm: Cleanfarms
- Ensuring Animal Welfare On Canadian Farms
- Traceability: Locating And Controlling Disease Along The Food Chain
- Biosecurity: Keeping Animals Healthy On Canadian Farms
- How Do You Know Canadian-Grown Food Is Safe?