Five years ago, the National Cattle Feeders’ Association (NCFA), along with our federal packers, Cargill, JBS and Tyson Foods, developed the Canadian Feedlot Animal Care Assessment Program.
This national feedlot program was created because our packers requested a way to develop verifiable welfare practices at feedlots, based on demands for verification from retailers. The program was built with input from Canadian feedlot producers, feedlot veterinarians such as Drs. Joyce Van Donkersgoed (NCFA Program Coordinator) and Sherry Hannon (Feedlot Health Management Services), animal scientists such as Dr. Karen Genswein (AAFC) and Jennifer Woods (currently AFSC), and the three aforementioned federal packers.
The audit program was recognized by the National Farm Animal Care Council (NFACC) a few years ago as meeting all requirements in the Canadian Beef Code of Practice, as well as meeting NFACC’s assessment process.
Local Alberta cattle feeder Lyle Adams of 6A Cattle in Picture Butte got involved with the program because he saw the value to his own operation and the industry alike. “It is a way for producers to evaluate animal health and welfare practices and can identify areas for improvement. Healthy animals are more productive and are needed for a safe beef supply,” he says.
National retailers, such as Walmart, Loblaws, Sobeys, Federated Coop and Overwaitea, requested that NCFA get the feedlot audit program reviewed and certified by PAACO (Professional Animal Auditor Certification Organization) in the USA to ensure it met their welfare standards and was a sound audit program.
Five years ago, that certification was received, and the Canadian feedlot welfare audit program has met annual recertification standards since then. The Canadian Roundtable for Sustainable Beef (CRSB) also reviewed NCFA’s feedlot audit program and recognized it as fully meeting their requirements for animal health and welfare.
“Poorly treated and mishandled animals are a cost to feedlot production, so if they become sick and we treat them properly and give them a good environment to live they become more productive which is important to our economic sustainability,” adds Adams. “It’s better for both the animals and the supply chain if they are happy and healthy.”
Recently Tyson Foods indicated that they will be using NCFA’s PAACO certified feedlot audit program, the Canadian Feedlot Animal Care Assessment Program, as their audit standard when auditing Canadian feedlots next year.
“The audit process ensures to packers and retailers, that our cattle are raised with care and we can demonstrate that. As Canada is a net exporter of beef, it shows the international community of our standards when it comes to animal care and welfare,” says Adams. “Most importantly it is a tool to prove to others that what we do we are actually doing.”
Further information on the Canadian feedlot animal care assessment program can be found at https://nationalcattlefeeders.ca/feedlot/. The website includes all program documents and training materials (available in English, French, and Spanish) including an easy-to-use eLearn training program to help feedlot producers and veterinarians learn how to use the audit tool themselves, to evaluate their own welfare procedures in their own yard.
The program was developed with grant support from the federal and provincial governments through Growing Forward, the Canadian Ag Partnership, and Alberta Livestock Meat Agency.