Canadian Feedlot Animal Care Assessment Program
Dr. Joyce Van Donkersgoed
With increasing questions from the public on how livestock are raised, processors are increasingly pressured to provide proof that the fed cattle they purchase meet recognized welfare standards. National Cattle Feeders Association (NCFA), along with our federal processors, built a national feedlot welfare assessment/audit tool to provide reassurances to retailers and the public that feedlot cattle in Canada are raised humanely.
Over the last 3 years, an Animal Care Advisory Committee consisting of experts from Cargill, JBS, Tyson Foods, feedlot producers, feedlot veterinarians, animal scientists, and ethologists worked together to develop a practical, credible, and scientifically sound feedlot audit tool that would improve animal welfare while providing necessary reassurances to the public. The Canadian Beef Code of Practice was used as a basis for the development of the audit tool, along with information from the North American Meat Institute cattle handling audit tool, the US Beef Quality Assurance feedlot guidelines, and the Common Swine Industry Audit.
The audit tool was pilot tested across 32 feedlots of varying sizes across Canada and revised based on input from producers. As well, 2 large retail meetings were held in Calgary and Toronto gathering input from retailers, such as McDonalds, Walmart, Sobeys, Loblaws, Federated Co-op, and Overwaitea.
The Committee submitted the updated audit tool to the Professional Animal Auditor Certification Organization (PAACO) for certification against its international welfare standards. The audit tool was also submitted to National Farm Animal Care Council (NFACC) to receive recognition as having following their animal care assessment framework process. The audit tool received NFACC recognition and was certified by PAACO in December 2015 and fully recertified again in 2017.
During 2016 and 2017 additional feedlot benchmark pilot tests were done and the tool further refined. NCFA worked with PAACO to develop a PAACO certified 3rd party auditor training program as requested by our processors and retailers. The first PAACO feedlot auditor training program took place in Lethbridge in September with 16 participants, including participants from 3rd party audit companies like IMI Global, Food Safety Net Services (FSNS), and NSF International.
To help producers implement the animal health and welfare program on their operation and in preparation for audits from processors and retailers, NCFA has developed an eLearn training program on the NCFA webpage, along with other supporting materials, including the feedlot audit guide and audit checklist, articles on how to implement the program, and generic templates for protocols required in the program. Feedlot producers are encouraged to work with their feedlot veterinarians and nutritionists to implement the program.
Sections in the audit tool include:
1. Feedlot’s commitment to animal care;
4. Cattle handling;
6. Animal health;
9. Other feedlot working animals (horses, dogs); and
10. Egregious acts of neglect and wilful acts of abuse.
There is a requirement in the program that producers conduct their own self-assessment at least once annually to identify ways to continually improve animal health and welfare.
Many yards in Alberta are already implementing the program with the help from their feedlot veterinarians. The audit tool is a living document and as new information becomes known on cattle health and welfare and more audits are conducted with feedback from producers, the audit tool will be refined and kept current.
Funding for development of the program has been through the Alberta Livestock and Meat Agency and Growing Forward Programs both provincially and federally.
For further information on the Canadian Feedlot Animal Care Assessment program, please contact NCFA (www.nationalcattlefeeders.ca).