COLUMBUS, Ohio — When the Humane Society of the United States appeared in Ohio with a challenge to change farming practices such as confinement housing or face a public vote, the state decided to act.
Following a meeting in February 2009 with the humane society, the Ohio Livestock Care Standards Board was formed with membership from commodity groups, state officials, academics and others in the livestock business. The standards became state law and went into effect September 2011 with codes of practice for all livestock species.
It took 179 meetings to pull this together, said retired state veterinarian David Glauer at the National Institute of Animal Agriculture annual meeting held last month in Columbus, Ohio.
Committees developed livestock care requirements for all species based on current welfare research, the World Organization for Animal Health standards and rules from the European Union and Australia.
The rules cover biosecurity, disease prevention, housing, care and well-being of livestock and poultry, affordability of food and best farm management practices.
“Our rules ended up to be the minimal requirements. You have to have adequate feed and water to promote the health of the animal to promote health and growth,” Glauer said.
There are chapters on euthanasia, penalties, dealing with disabled or distressed livestock and general considerations for the care and welfare of livestock.
Since the code was released, many other state standards for farm animals have been modelled after the Ohio approach, said Candace Croney of Purdue University’s Centre for Animal Care.
“We wanted to make sure the process was respectful of the concerns expressed by the public, including those out of the state, and that it was a process that allowed the state to act in a way that is practical.”
The greatest impacts were felt in the swine industry, said Ohio farmer Bryan Black, a past-president of the National Pork Producers Council. The pork industry must be in full compliance by 2025.
“The new code had to be workable for the industry and be acceptable to the HSUS,” he said.
The code wants open housing but allows for gestation pens to be used as a hospital pen or a place to segregate aggressive sows.
“Producers have said it can be done but it takes a different set of skills to do it,” he said.
The standards are complaint driven and if producers do not comply they can be fined or taken to court. Some complaints from the public are a misunderstanding of normal animal behaviour.
One person reported seeing six dead horses in a field. Investigators found out they were actually lying down and sleeping in the sun, said Forshey.