Codes of Practice for Beef Cattle and Pigs

By Kaley Pugh, Manager of Animal Protection Services

Beef Cattle and Pigs Codes of Practice Manuals

Codes of Practice for Beef Cattle and Pigs 

Animals have always played an important role in agriculture. The care of these animals is vitally important to the animals themselves as well as the producer and the public.

Codes of Practice have been developed to promote the health and welfare of farmed animals such as beef cattle and pigs. Additionally the Codes are a valuable tool for any agency involved in the enforcement of animal protection legislation.

So what exactly are “Codes of Practice” and how do they help improve the care of farmed animals?

A consensus Process for Code Development

The National Farm Animal Care Council (NFACC) is a national organization that brings a diverse group of stakeholders together to discuss animal welfare issues. They have developed the Codes of Practice, which are standards for the care and handling of various farmed animal species. The Codes are developed through a consensus process with input from scientists, veterinarians, producers, animal welfare organizations and the public. For more information about NFACC, the Codes of Practice and the Code development process, please see NFACC’s website at: http://www.nfacc.ca/ .

The Codes are currently under development for several species, and new Codes have recently been published for several others. The most current Codes specifically list minimum care requirements, and acknowledge that the Codes and their requirements may be used in animal welfare legislation enforcement.

The new Codes of Practice for the Care and Handling of beef cattle and pigs were published in August 2013 and March 2014, respectively. Both Codes contain sections relating to housing and environment, feed and water, animal health, animal husbandry, transportation and euthanasia. A few key requirements that may of particular importance to animal welfare enforcement, or of interest to the public, are discussed in this article. Links to each Code in their entirety are provided at the end of this article.

Housing and Handling

One of the major new requirements comes in the Pig Code, where the controversial practice of housing pregnant sows in stalls has been addressed. As of July 1, 2014, all new or rebuilt facilities will be required to use group housing for bred females (after a 28 day allowance for stall housing post breeding). After July 1, 2024, the requirement will be for all bred females to be housed in groups, individual pens, or stalls if they are provided with opportunity for exercise.

In the Beef Code, there is a requirement for all operations to have access to facilities for safe handling, treatment and segregation of cattle. There are also requirements to promptly assist

The Health section of each Code specifies that all producers must have a valid Veterinary Client Patient Relationship, which is valuable since veterinarians are essential components of livestock production operations. The pig Code states that “pigs that are sick, injured, in pain, or suffering must be promptly treated, or be euthanized…”, while the beef Code states that producers must “provide appropriate care, convalescence or treatment for sick, injured or lame cattle without delay” and “euthanize cattle without delay that are unlikely to recover, or fail to respond to treatment or convalescent protocols, or have chronic, severe, or debilitating pain and distress…” These requirements for prompt treatment are particularly valuable in welfare enforcement as they clearly indicate that delaying care or euthanasia are not an accepted practices in either industry.

Critical topics such as handling and painful procedures are discussed in the Animal Husbandry sections. Both Codes clearly specify that animals are to be handled humanely without aggression or willful mistreatment, and both outline the limited conditions under which the use of an electric prod is acceptable. Interesting changes mandating the phase-in of pain medication use are contained in each document. For pigs, castration at more than 10 days of age and tail docking at more than 7 days of age require pain control, and after July 1, 2016 both of these procedures will require pain control when performed at any age. In beef cattle, there is a requirement to consult a veterinarian about the use of pain control for horn removal and castration, a requirement to use pain control for horn removal after January 1, 2016, and a requirement for the use of pain control for castration for animals older than 9 months as of January 1, 2016 and for animal older than 6 months as of January 1, 2018.

individual animals that are not coping with weather conditions, to provide additional feed for energy in cold conditions, and to ensure that ammonia levels do not exceed 25 parts per million in indoor facilities.

Feed and Water

The beef cattle Code lays out the limited conditions under which snow is appropriate as a sole water source

The beef cattle Code lays out the limited conditions under which snow is appropriate as a sole water source

Several important requirements are listed in the Feed and Water sections. Both Codes make statements regarding unacceptable Body Condition Scores (BCS). BCS is a five-point scoring system used to classify the condition of an animal, based on the amount of fat and/or muscle. An animal with a BCS of “1/5” is considered emaciated, while one rated at “5/5” would be obese.

In beef, corrective action must be taken for any individual animal with a BCS less than 2/5, and in breeding pigs, action must be taken for any animal with a BCS less than 2/5 or greater than 4/5. The Codes both make reference, in slightly different ways, to feeding diets that are appropriate for the individual animal’s life stage. This acknowledges that, for example, a growing heifer and a mature bull have different nutritional requirements and must be fed accordingly.

There are discussions about the provision of appropriate quantities of good quality water in both Codes, and the beef Code specifically lays out the limited conditions under which snow is appropriate as a sole water source. The pig Code and the beef Code also require that producers have a back-up plan for watering animals in the event that the primary water source becomes unavailable or unsuitable.

Animal Husbandry

After July 1, 2016, castration and tail docking of pigs will require pain control when performed at any age.

After July 1, 2016, castration and tail docking of pigs will require pain control when performed at any age.

The Health section of each Code specifies that all producers must have a valid Veterinary Client Patient Relationship, which is valuable since veterinarians are essential components of livestock production operations. The pig Code states that “pigs that are sick, injured, in pain, or suffering must be promptly treated, or be euthanized…”, while the beef Code states that producers must “provide appropriate care, convalescence or treatment for sick, injured or lame cattle without delay” and “euthanize cattle without delay that are unlikely to recover, or fail to respond to treatment or convalescent protocols, or have chronic, severe, or debilitating pain and distress…” These requirements for prompt treatment are particularly valuable in welfare enforcement as they clearly indicate that delaying care or euthanasia are not an accepted practices in either industry.

Critical topics such as handling and painful procedures are discussed in the Animal Husbandry sections. Both Codes clearly specify that animals are to be handled humanely without aggression or willful mistreatment, and both outline the limited conditions under which the use of an electric prod is acceptable. Interesting changes mandating the phase-in of pain medication use are contained in each document. For pigs, castration at more than 10 days of age and tail docking at more than 7 days of age require pain control, and after July 1, 2016 both of these procedures will require pain control when performed at any age. In beef cattle, there is a requirement to consult a veterinarian about the use of pain control for horn removal and castration, a requirement to use pain control for horn removal after January 1, 2016, and a requirement for the use of pain control for castration for animals older than 9 months as of January 1, 2016 and for animal older than 6 months as of January 1, 2018.

Euthanasia

The euthanasia sections of the Codes also outline important requirements that help ensure humane end of life treatment for beef and pigs. Previously discussed euthanasia requirements are reiterated in these sections, with “euthanasia without delay” discussed for beef when required, and “prompt euthanasia” when required in pigs. Both Codes specify that only acceptable euthanasia methods are to be used, and that personnel performing euthanasia must be properly trained and competent in the procedures. The Codes also contain discussions of acceptable methods with accompanying diagrams.

For More Information

This brief overview of the beef and pig Codes only touches on a fraction of the information available in these valuable documents. All producers and other concerned parties should read the complete works in order to fully appreciate the requirements and new developments.

The complete Codes of Practices for beef cattle and pigs can be found by following the links on the NFACC website (http://www.nfacc.ca/) or are available for download in PDF format at:   http://sspca.ca/education-resources/animal-care/livestock/

 

 

 

 

 

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