Dr. Robert Tremblay
As another step in the long path of creating a new version of the Code of Practice for the Care and Handling of Dairy Cattle, the draft Code was released for public comment late last year. Comment period ended in late January.
The next step towards finalizing the Code is a review of the comments and revision of the draft as deemed necessary. The target is to have all that completed this year. If that happens, then the 2009 revision of the Code will be superseded after approximately 13 years by the new code.
Much has happened in the areas of farm animal welfare and care over those 13 years. For one thing, other countries have developed and implemented on-farm cattle care programs. The U.S. has several including FARM. The animal care component of FARM is now in its fourth version since it was originally launched also in 2009. If you are interested, you can download details of the animal care component of FARM 4.0 from this website: https://nationaldairyfarm.com/.
The U.K. has Red Tractor, an on-farm program that extends well beyond dairy to encompass most other animal agriculture and crop sectors. You can see the animal health and welfare standards for dairy cattle online at https://assurance.redtractor.org.uk/standards/animal-health-and-welfare-10/.
So, back to the draft Canadian Code. As part of the revision, a list of priority welfare concerns was developed, and a scientific committee prepared a review of the research related to those welfare priorities. The welfare priorities were:
• Cow-calf separation
• Optimal management and design of indoor systems
• Pain control for painful conditions and procedures
• Lameness and injuries
• End-of-life management (culling, euthanasia, and fitness for transport)
The draft itself is laid out similar to the 2009 version of the code. It is organized into seven sections, one more than the 2009 Code. The new section added is called Training and Stockmanship Skills.
This is very much needed, and it is essential to recognize its importance. As in the 2009 edition of the Code, there are a number of useful resources in a series of appendices.
Most sections or subsections end with a list of Requirements and of Recommendations. There does appear to be quite an increase in the number of requirements, although many requirements lack specific targets.
I find some of the statements describing the requirements are difficult to understand. Subsection 2.2 deals with housing and sub-subsection 2.2.3 deals with lactating and dry cows. Listed there are three Requirements, one of which states, “As of the publishing of this Code, newly built barns must allow daily freedom of movement, exercise, and social interactions year-round.” That would appear to impose conditions on the design of new tie-stall barns. And yet, in the text box immediately above the list of requirements is the following sentence, “Farmers building new barns are encouraged to select options that most effectively achieve the requirement below for daily freedom of movement and social interactions year-round.” It appears as if this statement makes the requirement optional. Should the phrasing of the requirement and of this sentence be improved to make the Code clearer?
One topic that is not mentioned in the code is the welfare priority, cow-calf separation. It will be interesting to see if this is addressed in the final version.
The Code committees are commended for their obvious hard work in preparing the draft. I hope that revisions following the public comment period make the final version of the Code even better.
Dr. Robert Tremblay is a veterinarian for Boehringer-Ingelheim and lives near Guelph.