Sheep producers happy with code of practice

Producers had few concerns | The sheep code generated the fewest responses during the comment code of any of the codes

The new code of practice for care and handling of sheep has received a generally warm reception from the Canadian Sheep Federation.

Executive director Corlena Patterson said she was pleased with the outcome of deliberations by a 17-member committee that began work in January 2011.

“I think in the end the code represents a really good end result in terms of melding both animal production and animal welfare,” Patterson said Dec. 19, the day after the final version was published.

“We’re quite satisfied with the end result. It’s workable for everybody.”

The sheep code is the fifth to be finalized in a process organized by the National Farm Animal Care Council (NFACC). A draft released for public comment July 9 to Sept. 6 drew useful responses from producers, Patterson said.

“The comments were largely productive and well thought out, and we took those into consideration without a lot of contention.”

NFACC general manager Jackie Wepruk said the sheep code generated the fewest responses during the comment period of any code so far developed.

“I would say that the feedback we got on the sheep code was proportionate to the issues that the sheep industry is facing,” said Wepruk.

“It’s certainly not facing the same issues as the pig code. We were pleased by the number of producers that actually responded.”

Changes include a requirement for use of anesthesia and pain relievers when castrating or tail docking sheep older than six weeks. Castration on rams older than 10 weeks must be done by a veterinarian using anesthesia.

Patterson said producers accepted the new requirement.

“There’s an understanding that there’s a need for them, there’s a place for them and from the producers’ standpoint there didn’t seem to be a lot of pushback on what the recommendations were.”

Wepruk said she was not part of the sheep code committee meetings, but as with most codes, issues surrounding animal welfare tend to generate the most discussion.

“That’s one issue that I think has been common to all the codes of practice, is resolving what the science says in terms of how much pain a procedure may cause … versus practicality of applying those methods,” Wepruk said.

The sheep code committee included producers, veterinarians, researchers, animal welfare group representatives and government officials.

The scientific analysis of the code included:

  • Stressful handling and management procedures
  • Accelerated lambing (lambing every eight or nine months instead of once a year)
  • Methods of on-farm euthanasia
  • Flooring types
  • Neonatal care
  • Painful procedures
  • Snow as a water source