CARGILL — The federal regulation requiring livestock truckers to document if the animals they’re carrying were recently fed, watered and rested is prompting a collective shrug in southwestern Ontario cattle country — nearly eight months after the authorities supposedly began enforcing the poorly understood requirement.
The Canadian Food Inspection Agency’s 2019 amendment to regulations under the Humane Transportation of Animals compels anyone transporting cattle and other livestock to possess paperwork showing those animals were properly treated before they boarded. A two-year enforcement grace period expired last February.
Those in the Ontario cattle industry concede the regulation isn’t getting much enforcement amid confusion and continued lack of familiarity with it, especially among producers hauling only a few animals at a time over relatively short distances. Nor is there a standard document in use.
Though his own company diligently adheres to the rule, Elmwood cattle ranch operator Ken Schaus said he’s not heard of anyone being charged for not complying.
Schaus explained that following the requirement is just a part of doing business, and that it made sense. “The rules are what they are,” said the Schaus Land & Cattle partner who oversees shipments of hundreds of cattle annually into the operation from the prairie provinces. “There are always changes. It’s for the betterment of public perception, and it’s also … to make sure cattle are handled properly.”
He said the regulation fit with the current Beef Code of Practice prohibiting livestock from riding more than 36 hours in transport without stopping for feed and water.
“You’re hauling $150,000 worth of cattle. I don’t know what other industry where you don’t have to fill out some paperwork,” he said. “If you’re going to haul a load of milk from Teeswater to Chapman’s, all that’s documented. Everything is documented. You’re getting well paid if you’re a (cattle) trucker, you’re getting well paid if you’re a producer. Nobody’s doing it at a loss, at least right now.”
He added, “What is the big deal about filling out a sheet of paper? All you really have to do is put the time into the head count.”
However, he suggested the transfer of care document could be vastly improved if deployed as a digital application on the trucker’s smartphone.
When asked if smaller producers or dairy farmers who occasionally bring a few cattle to their local sale barn should be exempt, Schaus replied that they shouldn’t. “Again, you’re in business. You’re getting well paid these days,” said Schaus, who is also part of a national committee updating the beef cattle Code of Practice. “Really, there should be a paper trail. What other commodity moves … without documentation?”
Nonetheless, Norwood-area beef producer John Lunn said that a producer group in western Canada has begun pushing for an exemption when moving cattle within a 300 km radius, which would effectively exempt smaller producers. “The problem is, we’re acting after the fact again,” he said.
Lunn also said that “it depends which sale barn you’re going to, whether it’s being enforced or not.”
For many producers, the sale barn or slaughterhouse would be the first point of contact where they turn over the transfer of care document.
Farmers Forum spoke with two Ontario sale barns that indicated some farmers show up with cattle but no document. In that case, the sale barns themselves create the document and append it to the operations’ incoming manifest.
On the outbound side, the CFIA “hasn’t really started to pressure” operators on creating a corresponding document for animals leaving the sale barn, according to a southwestern Ontario sale barn who asked that his name not be used.
At Cargill Auction Market, owner Calvin Anstett said he hasn’t been offering a manifest workaround yet at his operation, noting it’s always been in producers’ best interest to take the best care of their animals anyway. “We’ve been trucking cattle in from out west for years, and the better we look after the cattle, the better they do for us.”
The transfer of care document also requires the sale barn to sign off by declaring cattle received are in good condition upon arrival, Anstett said, adding he’s heard of an abattoir refusing to provide that signature in case an animal is condemned at some point after stepping off the truck. Who’s responsible for the animal being in bad condition at that point? “They think, liability wise, they don’t want to sign it.”
In reply to Farmers Forum, the CFIA said it recognizes the feed, water and rest requirement requires “significant adjustments by some industry sectors.” Another two-year “compliance promotion period” was put in place after the expiry of the original grace period last February.