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A feedlot’s commitment to animal care

Canadian feedlot animal care assessment — Part 2

A feedlot’s commitment to animal care evolves around four criteria: ensuring management and employees have access to the Canadian Beef Code of Practice, a written animal care policy, a self-assessment protocol and an emergency response plan. Each accounts for two out of the possible eight points for this section of an audit.

The Canadian Beef Code of Practice is the industry-wide standard for the care and handling of beef cattle. A copy can be made available to staff via the Internet or a hard copy at the feedlot. A Powerpoint training program summarizing the requirements and recommendations of the code is available on the National Cattle Feeder Association’s (NCFA) animal-care website.

A written animal-care policy establishes your feedlot’s commitment to continuous improvement and communicates your values and expectations to employees as well as your suppliers and customers. Your values influence the operation’s overall culture and mindset when it comes to managing animal care. Lead by example.

The policy needn’t be long and complicated. A few sentences covering key elements can be posted around the office, lunch room and work areas in the barns. Custom feeder clients, transporters, service providers such as veterinarians, nutritionists, suppliers of feeder cattle such as order buyers and ranchers, and your customers should be made aware of and follow your animal-care policy.

animal care policy example

During an audit, the auditor will ask to see your written animal-care policy, verify that it is widely circulated to feedlot staff, review training records and assess whether personnel are knowledgable and actually implementing proper animal care and handling practices by interviewing employees, monitoring their actions, reviewing protocols and assessing the condition of the cattle and pens.

The program asks feedlot operators to conduct a self-assessment of animal care practices and recommends that the checklist in the program guide be used to ensure nothing has been missed. A structured self-assessment prepares you and your staff for an audit down the road by a processor or retailer whose auditor will be using the same audit tool.

The auditor will ask to see documentation verifying that a self-assessment has been carried out at least once within the past year. Criteria can be assessed at various times of the year as long as all of them have been covered. They include commitment, transportation, feedlot facilities, nutrition, feeding management, animal health management, humane stunning and euthanasia, including the list of egregious acts of neglect and willful abuse. Documentation must state who conducted the assessment, when it was conducted, what criteria were assessed, areas identified for improvement, and an action plan to implement corrective and preventive actions.

Having a detailed emergency response plan is crucial to providing efficient animal care during an emergency, such as an extreme weather event, fire, power outage, interruption of feed processing, foreign animal disease outbreak, livestock truck rollover, animal breakout or mass mortality. The plan should at the very least include emergency contact names and numbers, emergency response resources and equipment, a feedlot map, and contingency plan. A generic template for a feedlot emergency response plan that can be edited to fit your yard is available on the NCFA animal-care website.

All of the program documents, checklists, generic templates and supporting training and implementation materials can be downloaded from the NCFA animal-care website via the link on your provincial feeder association’s website.

This is part of a series of articles on the new Canadian Feedlot Animal Care Assessment Program. Please see our article from the May 2016 issue of Canadian Cattlemen for more background. For more information, contact your provincial cattle feeder association or the NCFA, 403-769-1519, [email protected].

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