The Gleaner
Agriculture

Dairy farmers welcome new Code of Practice

Dairy farmers will soon be subject to new standards in animal care, following the March 30 release of the updated Code of Practice for the Care and Handling of Dairy Cattle by the National Farm Animal Care Council (NFACC) and the Dairy Farmers of Canada.

The modernized Code will come into effect on April 1, 2024, at which point the 2009 dairy cattle Code, which is currently in place, will officially be retired.

“Canadian dairy farmers already follow some of the most stringent standards in the world, and the new Code of Practice will help them continue to provide the best in animal care while staying consistent with our industry’s history of continuous improvement,” says Dairy Farmers of Canada president, Pierre Lampron. “This commitment to quality and care means dairy farmers are always looking to stay ahead of the curve and improve their practices, reflecting the most recent science on the welfare of their animals.”

The process to re-develop the Code was led by an 18-member committee of dairy farmers, veterinarians, researchers, technical and program implementation experts, representatives from milk processors, animal welfare advocacy groups, provincial and federal governments, and allied sectors (veal and beef cattle). A two-month public consultation period was launched at the end of November 2021 that garnered comments from 50 organizations and 5,834 individuals.

The 88-page document focuses on animal nutrition and physiology, housing that is clean and dry, provides thermal comfort, opportunity for exercise and social interaction with other cattle, disease and injury prevention and detection, and positive human-animal interactions that are compassionate and understanding of the animal’s emotional needs and that minimize fear and distress.

Hinchinbrooke-based dairy farmer Jason Erskine suggests the fact the consultation process was open to so many was a positive strategy. He represents the dairy sector on the board of directors with the Haut-Saint-Laurent syndicate of the UPA and the English-speaking producers in the Montérégie-West region with the Quebec Milk Producers Association.

 

An updated version of the Code of Practice for the Care and Handling of Dairy Cattle was released at the end of March The revised version will come into effect one year from now PHOTO Sarah Rennie

 

“It is always evolving,” says Erskine of the Code, noting that one of the big things included in the update is freedom of movement for the animals. “They are a lazy creature, yes, but they should be mobile too,” laughs Erskine, noting the Code includes requirements to change the housing to reflect this need.

“I am all for the Code,” says local veterinarian Jodi Wallace, who is the vice president of the Canadian Association of Bovine Veterinarians. “It protects the rights of the cow,” she explains, noting her organization was one of those that commented during the consultation period. “It is a beneficial thing, and most farmers are already up to date,” she says. “We are just standardizing practices with cattle welfare at the heart of it.”

Erskine agrees. “Everything they have put in the Code will make for happier animals,” he says, noting he is also appreciative of the flexible timeframe that allows producers to adapt their practices. “We are going to need time and we will need programs for these investments,” he acknowledges, noting several of the more significant changes to the Code have extended deadlines. “I feel we were fairly treated,” he adds.

Erskine says another important aspect to modernizing the Code is that it “shows consumers that we are serious about making changes.” He says people now expect that animals are being taken care of, as well as the environment, and that their food is being produced in a healthy manner.

Catherine Turgeon, the UPA advisor for the Haut-Saint-Laurent syndicate, agrees, saying it is all about the image presented to consumers. “This is our guarantee that the standards exist,” she explains. Like Erskine, she is hopeful the different levels of government will support farmers as they adapt to the Code. “We will be looking for programs to help farmers to get there.”

The 2023 version of the Code can be downloaded from the National Farm Animal Care Council’s website at: nfacc.ca.

The Dairy Farmers of Canada is organizing three information webinars on the new requirements and timelines included in the updated Code of Practice. Webinars have been scheduled in English on April 25 at 11 a.m., and on April 27 at 3 p.m. Another session will take place in French on April 26, starting at 1 p.m. For more information, or for help registering for a webinar, farmers can contact Lucie Boileau via email at: lucie.boileau@dfc-plc.ca.

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