Meeting Canada’s updated livestock transport regulations begins with producer vigilance before getting on the road.
The Canadian Food Inspection Agency’s (CFIA) recently amended transport regulations now place legal responsibility on beef producers to select cattle that are fit to transport and to clearly communicate the animals’ needs with other regulated parties.
“Humane transport is a shared responsibility, and everybody involved in the transport has responsibilities under that law,” said Anne Allen, CFIA veterinary program officer, in a webinar hosted by the Alberta Farm Animal Care Association.
“It’s really important that producers make the right transport decisions on the farm so that they don’t extend problems further down the food chain.”
While many of the amended regulations more directly impact commercial livestock carriers and producers transporting their own animals for sale, the changes around assessing animals before shipping and proper record-keeping apply to all beef producers.
Allen described the new regulations as arising from a culture of prevention and accountability, similar to the mindset driving animal care verification programs. “The cattle industry has invested a great deal of time developing tools and showing itself to be animal welfare friendly,” she said.
“It’s very important that there’s a recognition that in transport, welfare continues to matter, and deferring your problem of the animal in front of you to somebody else is not good for anyone in the industry.”
Assessing cattle before transport falls into the preventative measures provisions of the new regulations. “There needs to be a recognition that weak animals are less able to cope with transport,” said Allen, noting the stress transport can have on fit animals even in good conditions and the long distances cattle often travel in Canada.
The new regulation enacts CFIA’s existing Compromised Animal Policy into law. While the philosophy of this policy hasn’t shifted, it now clearly defines the fit, unfit and compromised animal categories. The regulation lays out whether or not these animals can be loaded, how to be loaded safely, where they can be transported and how long they can be in transport.
Allen added that decisions about transporting potentially vulnerable cattle can be difficult, and she advised contacting a veterinarian and referring to the Beef Cattle Code of Practice and other industry guidelines in the event of a tough call.
To ensure better communication between all regulated parties, a new section on record-keeping is now part of the regulations. This is because cattle may have several stops when going to assembly before reaching their final destination, which can take days.
“It’s very important that information about their welfare travels with them so that the people who are charged with making the right decisions for them have the information so that they can make those calls.”
Two records are now required for commercial carriers. The first is the Animal Transport Record, which includes the producer’s name and address, the driver’s name, license and registration information, description and weight of the animals, time of loading and the time they were last fed.
The second is the Transfer of Care Notice, which Allen stated “only applies if animals are going to slaughter or an assembly centre.” This includes the date and time the animals arrived, the condition they arrived in and the date and time they were last fed and watered. The regulated parties need to acknowledge that this transfer of care took place.
“It shows who’s responsible for the animal at any particular time,” said Allen. “That is designed so that animals don’t get left in the middle of night at an assembly yard with nobody looking after them.”
Communicating care details ties into the new requirements around feed, water and rest, which received much attention when announced. This includes the prescriptive maximum time that an animal can be on the road. A fit, mature animal will have a maximum of 36 hours between feed, water and rest, while a compromised animal and those too young to be fed hay or grain have a 12-hour maximum interval.
While the old regulations defined transport as the time from loading to unloading, the time of transport now begins when feed, water or rest are first removed and ends when these elements are provided.
Although the rest of the amended regulations came into effect in February of this year, the new maximum time interval for feed, water and rest will come into effect on February 20, 2022. Before this date, the previous requirement that livestock are not hungry, thirsty or exhausted upon arrival will continue to be enforced. Researchers have also been studying the effectiveness of feed and water rest stops on preconditioned and freshly weaned calves.