Beef producers approve of newly updated beef code of practice

The latest updated version of the voluntary beef code of practice is out, and the Manitoba Beef Producers is offering a thumbs-up review of the document.

“The revisions to the code are practical and science based,” said Trevor Atchison, MBP president, in a press release that quickly followed the announcement from the National Farm Animal Care Council (NFACC).

“Beef producers have had the opportunity for input, both through direct involvement in the development of the new code by NFACC and through an extensive comment period.”

The document contains few surprises. Cattle can still be wintered on loose snow, provided it is available in sufficient quantities and a backup source of liquid water is on hand.

Also, calves can still be castrated with a knife “by a competent person” without anesthetic. However, by 2016, animals older than nine months must be given some form of pain control, and in 2018, that age limit drops to six months.

“But it’s preferred that it be done before three months,” said Cam Dahl, general manager of the MBP.Euthanize

Also, a .22 long rifle bullet, which only packs 138 joules of muzzle energy, has been deemed to have insufficient power to properly euthanize a calf, which research has shown requires at least 407 joules. Ranchers are advised under the code to use a centrefire rifle or shotgun with a bore 20 gauge or larger for all beef animals because larger animals such as yearlings, cows, or bulls require 1,356 joules to properly do the job, according to the code.

“The code really is based on scientific research on pain, and so that’s something that’s positive,” said Dahl.

The Code of Practice for the Care and Handling of Beef Cattle published by the National Farm Animal Care Council (NFACC) was developed by a 15-person committee comprised of beef cattle producers (cow-calf, backgrounding and feedlot operators), animal welfare and enforcement representatives, researchers, transporters, processors, veterinarians and government representatives.

Aiding in their work was a six-person Scientific Committee that included research and veterinary expertise in beef cattle behaviour, health and welfare.

Public welcome

The involvement of civil society in the development of the revised code was welcomed by MBP, said Atchison, who added that he hopes it will help make the industry’s efforts to ensure the highest standards of animal care are supported and understood by a broad spectrum of Canadian society.

“Beef producers care about the welfare of our animals and we work to protect their health and well-being,” said Atchison. “These renewed national guidelines will allow us to demonstrate that to the public at large.”

The Canadian Cattlemen’s Association also gave its stamp of approval.

Ryder Lee, the CCA’s manager of federal and provincial relations, said in a press release that the code will help people not in the cattle business understand what the industry does on a daily basis.

“The updated code will give people a better understanding of all that’s involved in raising beef cattle. And they can feel good knowing that the code takes into account science-informed practices that are practical for producers to use and meet the public’s expectations for animal care.”

Geoff Urton of the B.C. SPCA, who represented the Canadian Federation of Humane Societies on the code development committee, added that the document will “improve the lives” of beef cattle.

“I’m encouraged to see this code define minimum acceptable standards for cattle care and chart a path for more use of pain control during procedures like castration and dehorning,” he stated, in a press release.

NFACC is a collaborative partnership of diverse stakeholders created in 2005 to share information and work together on farm animal care and welfare.

The beef cattle code is the fourth of eight farm animal codes of practice currently under revision to be completed through the NFACC code development process. More information on the code development process is available at www.nfacc.ca/codes-of-practice.

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