Beef is going the way of dairy, in terms of having an updated, codified system of best practices, according to Ryder Lee, a Canadian Cattlemen’s Association (CCA) staffer who serves on the group’s animal-care committee.
“I think beef will be the next code on the list,” said Lee, at the CCA’s semi-annual meeting last week. “We’re as ready as anybody to be next.”
At a recent meeting in Calgary, CCA animal-care committee members were putting the finishing touches on a draft code of practice that aims to be “palatable” for all stakeholders at the NFACC table, which is made up of everyone from ranchers, government, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency, to animal welfare groups, said Lee.
The existing beef code, which is available on the CCA website, was created in 1991 and is due for updating, he added.
“The old code, from a format and digestibility standpoint, is not the best. We’re trying to address some of that in the new one,” said Lee. “We’re trying to have something that’s readable, usable, and accessible.”
The new code, which aims to provide a proactive, science-based guide for the industry that targets desired “outcomes” rather than “prescriptions,” should be finished within a couple of years at most, he added.
Having an established, widely available code that was created with wide-ranging input will help to fend off criticism of the industry.
“If you want to keep on raising cattle – there’s people who’d rather we didn’t. One of the ways they’ll try to stop us is to say that it’s cruel and horrible,” said Lee.
“This is one way to turn the conversation around and say, ‘No, this is how we do it.’”
ENFORCEMENT OR INCENTIVE?
At the committee level, some discussion was heard on the subject of enforcement, and whether to use words like “should” or “must” and the legal implications of each.
The issue of castration also came up, with one member noting that some European countries have banned the practice in hogs, and that it could be used to throw up a trade barrier.
Dave Solverson, chair of the animal-care committee, said producer input so far on the issue has called for it to be done when the animals are as young as possible to minimize pain and ill effects.
“We want to make sure that the producers can still do it themselves,” he said.
Lee noted that in some of the more controversial areas, there is a lack of science to bolster either side, making establishing an unassailable position on such issues particularly difficult.
On the issue of anesthetics for procedures such as dehorning, Solverson noted that there are problems that the animal welfare advocates often overlook.
“If you dehorn calves at a very young age with an anesthetic, then turn the cows and calves back out, there’s a real chance that calf is going to go off and lay down in the corner, get separated from its mother,” said Solverson.
“There’s negative outcomes from trying to do something without looking at the entire picture. That’s why it’s so important to have producers on this committee to put that perspective in place.”
He added that dehorning under anesthetic might work in a dairy barn, but not in a beef rancher’s corral or pasture.
The Canadian dairy industry was the first to develop a code of practice using a process established by the National Farm Animal Care Council (NFACC) and the Canadian Animal Health Coalition.
In late April, $3.4 million in federal AgriFlexibility funding was announced to develop codes and on-farm assessment protocols for other livestock sectors using the same science-based, collaborative process involving all stakeholders in the animal production value chain that will satisfy the demands of both the domestic and export markets.
As a framework for the codes, NFACC will use the revised National Development Process for Codes of Practice for the Care and Handling of Farm Animals that they piloted last year in the dairy industry. [email protected]
“Wewanttomakesure thattheproducerscan stilldoitthemselves.”
– DAVE SOLVERSON