Bison welfare standards updated in code of practice

An updated code of practice for the care and handling of bison was released Aug. 9 by the Canadian Bison Association and the National Farm Animal Care Council.

Like codes of practice for other Canadian livestock, it contains requirements and recommendations on how bison should be fed, managed and handled throughout their lives.

Saskatchewan bison producer Mark Silzer chaired the 11-member code development committee, which undertook the update more than a year ago. The committee included bison producers, animal welfare representatives, researchers, veterinarians and government personnel.

“The updated Code of Practice for the Care and Handling of Bison will be a useful tool for both current and new producers,” Silzer said in a news release.

“It will also give the public a better understanding of all that’s involved in raising bison.”

Committee members have provided updates on the code contents and progress at regional, provincial and national bison meetings over the past year.

Kaley Pugh, who represented the Canadian Federation of Humane Societies on the committee, said the code has “progressive new standards for bison welfare.”

Code preparation involved consultation with a separate scientific committee that identified priority issues. The committee, chaired by Dr. John Church of Thompson Rivers University, provided information on bison nutrition, confined feeding, behaviour, handling and euthanasia.

It also suggested that further research on bison would be useful.

The finalized code has seven sections: animal environment; feed and water; animal health; herd management; handling; transportation and on-farm euthanasia.

It also has appendices dealing with pasture stocking rates, preventing bison escapes, dealing with orphaned calves and deciding when and if to transport animals.

The bison code is the 10th code updated through the NFACC’s consensus-based process.

Printed copies are limited but the full bison code can be found at

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