The comment period for the updated beef cattle code of practice is open after two years of work to revise the 20-year-old animal welfare document.
Saskatchewan committee member Kim Hextall urged producers to read the draft code, which is available online, and offer their comments before the March 8 deadline.
She said the code addresses daily practices on beef farms but does not include guidelines for transportation beyond the farmgate, auctions, sale yards and slaughter facilities.
Hextall told producers at a December meeting that the revised code incorporates the best available scientific knowledge and accepted industry standards in six areas: environment, feed and water, health, husbandry, transportation and euthanasia.
“It’s not a how-to-farm manual,” she said.
Rather, it sets out nationally developed guidelines for animal care and handling. It includes both recommended practices and practices required by legislation and industry expectations.
For example, the code lists access to protection from extreme weather as a requirement, either in natural areas or man-made structures. However, it recommends that additional feed and bedding be provided during extreme cold.
The code includes information on how much extra energy is required by cattle, depending on temperature and wind chill, so that producers have an idea how much more their cattle might need.
Hextall said reaching consensus on some issues was difficult for the committee of 15 because production practices differ so much across the country. However, the basics are universal.
“We can’t afford to mistreat them and abuse them,” she said. “We’re there to look after them.”
The committee worked with a scientists’ committee to identify priority welfare issues specific to beef cattle: painful procedures, feedlot health and morbidity, environmental and housing conditions, and weaning methods.
Hextall said there was extensive discussion about when and if pain relief should be used. Most of the research in this area has been done on dairy cattle, and pain control is a requirement in the dairy code of practice.
“Animal rights activities do not differentiate between dairy and beef cattle,” she said.
In its draft form, the code requires castration to be done before the age of three months where practical, and by competent people using proper tools and accepted techniques.
It encourages producers to consult veterinarians on method, timing and the use of pain control. Pain control is to be used when castrating bulls older than nine months.
Comments on these and other issues will be compiled and reviewed by the committee. Hextall said the members are looking for constructive feedback.
“Don’t just say, ‘I don’t like it,’ ” she said. “What would you recommend instead?”
The final code should be in place later in the spring.
The draft can be viewed at nfacc.ca/codes-of-practice/beef-cattle.