Some answers, but plenty of questions remain ahead of transport regulation changes

We are less than six months away from new federal livestock transportation regulations coming into force, and significant clarification is still needed surrounding the implementation of the rules.

The existing rules for livestock transport within Canada have been overhauled from all sides, including: the angle of loading ramps, hours allowed in transit, restrictions on movement based on age or production stage, increased recording of information for movement, and a move to simpler, more objective language.

The rules for “food, water, and rest” intervals for all livestock are relatively straight-forward, but there are aspects of the new rules that farmers are still waiting for answers on. In a webinar hosted by Farm and Food Care Ontario, Andy Armstrong, a nearly 30-year veteran of the Canadian Food Inspection Agency, says that the amended regulation includes some much-needed updating and clarification surrounding transfer of care, and is focused on an outcome-based approach to animal welfare versus a strictly prescriptive approach.

Armstrong notes that the agency has fielded several questions from industry regarding clarification of the amendments, and that some answers still aren’t hammered out. For example, the rules surrounding documentation of animals in transport refer to “commercial” livestock transportation, but it’s unclear yet if farmers hauling only their own animals to slaughter or to sale would be deemed “commercial.”

There’s also ambiguity in the draft regulations as to whether or not transport within a farm is subject to the same rules — if a farmer is moving heavily pregnant animals to spring grass, or weanling pigs to barn a few miles away, are they to have full documentation as required under the transport rules? And if farmers are deemed “commercial” carriers, will there be training required? As of right now, that’s unclear.

Also of note, farmers should be very aware that the rules now stipulate how long an animal can be without food or water, and that time begins not from when they are loaded on a trailer, but from the time food and water is last offered. Animals that have been waiting in a holding yard for a few hours, for example, would be deemed “in transit” from the last time food and water was accessible.

Some key changes also include the language and rules surrounding unfit for transport and compromised animals. Where it may have been considered a policy/best practice not to move certain animals previously, that guideline will now be made a law — compromised animals may still be moved if isolated, but an unfit animal would be deemed illegal to move.

A key addition to these new rules is a focus on contingency plans and general planning, as well. Those transporting livestock will be expected to have planned ahead for inclement weather, excessive heat, travel delays, or what happens in the case of an accident or emergency.

It will be up to each farmer, livestock transporter, auction barn manager, and any other person who is part of the livestock value chain to be fully aware of how the new transportation rules apply to their specific situation. Armstrong says that a guidance document will be released in the coming months to help interpret the final rules (the current version is here.) The focus, he says, is very much on animal welfare and good transportation outcomes for all species across Canada.

The new rules — independent of final interpretation — come into effect February 20, 2020.

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