Check your inbox for the new VBP+ Certified Producer Newsletter

Emma Cross

Verified Beef Production Plus is committed to staying connected with producers and encouraging producer engagement and continuing education. That’s why VBP+ has launched a new virtual newsletter for certified producers.

On October 15th, VBP+ certified producers received the first edition of the VBP+ Certified Producer Newsletter. This email update will be delivered monthly to keep producers up to date on relevant industry news, new blog posts, and other fresh VBP+ resources. Producers can think of the newsletter as a monthly highlight reel of ways to stay involved and engaged with VBP+.

One feature of the newsletter is a snapshot of the newest blog posts added to the VBP+ website. This quick set of highlights lets producers keep up to date on the most important topics related to the beef industry and production under VBP+, without having to check the blog all the time. Blog posts are linked directly to the newsletter with a quick summary of each article for convenience. For October, check out posts on foreign objects and new sections of the Producer Reference Manual.

In addition, the newsletter keeps producers up to date on exciting and important updates from VBP+. Check your inbox for the updated phone number for VBP+ Delivery Services Inc, as well as a link to the new Simply Verified Beef podcast. Each month, check back for more important information for certified producers, as well as interesting highlights on what VBP+ is up to.

The newsletter also highlights key resources provided by VBP+ to trained and certified producers, as well as the general public. This includes fact sheets, the Producer Reference Manual, and sample records and templates. Last week’s newsletter draws producers’ attention to the shipping record template in preparation for the fall run, as well as the newest sections of the Producer Reference Manual and fact sheets on foreign objects in carcasses. As new resources are released, the newsletter will keep certified producers informed of the latest and greatest tools available to them.

VBP+ is looking forward to staying in touch with certified producers through this newsletter. We are excited to keep you up to date and involved with the latest updates from the world of VBP+.

 

Transfer of Care Documents

Emma Cross

On February 20, 2020, amendments were made to the Health of Animals Regulations: Part XII: Transport of Animals. While the name of this legislation may not ring a bell, most producers caught word of the reduction in maximum allowed intervals without feed, water, and rest for animals in transport. However, this is far from the whole story.

Since the amendments came into effect on February 20, 2020, any animal left at a slaughter facility or assembly centre (i.e. auction market, assembly yard, or independent holding facility associated with a slaughter establishment) had to be accompanied by a written transfer of care document. This document ensures that the individual responsible for the care of the animal(s) in question is clearly identified at all times, which in turn defines who is accountable for welfare decisions.

For some producers, the point at which this regulation came into effect is a source of confusion. The Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) implemented a two year compliance promotion period for the enforcement of the new maximum feed, water, and rest intervals. This means that until February 20, 2022, CFIA is focusing on education and awareness rather than strict enforcement of the new regulations. However, contrary to what many producers have been told, this does not apply to transfer of care documents. That is, producers are currently required by law to implement this documentation.

The guidelines for these written documents are quite general. There is no prescriptive format for the document, but instead, CFIA provides a list of required information to be included. The necessary information includes:

  1. The names of the transporting company and driver;
  2. The receiving company and representative;
  3. The condition of the animal(s) on arrival;
  4. The date, time, and place of the last feed, water, and rest;
  5. The date, time, and place of arrival;
  6. Notes regarding animal welfare concerns, dead animals found, and resulting actions;
  7. Acknowledgement from the receiver indicating receipt of the animal(s) and acceptance of the responsibility for care.

Producers do not have to provide transfer of care documents to commercial carriers, because responsibility for animal care is already transferred to the transporter upon release of the animals by the producer under the Health of Animals Regulations. As a result, a driver can refuse to drop off a load due to animal welfare concerns, since they are responsible for the care of the animals at that time. Similarly, receivers should document any welfare concerns on arrival to avoid being held accountable for issues that occurred before they were responsible for the care of the animal(s). Notably, CFIA states that this is an important step, because it helps receivers avoid declining a load and prolonging non-compliant animal transport to avert blame for the welfare issues.

Transfer of care documents should be kept on file for two years. This rule is important to tracking accountability for care in case of a welfare investigation. Read the amendments to the Health of Animals Regulations here.

Luckily, VBP+ provides a template for a transfer of care document that is available to all producers, whether or not they are trained and/or certified in the VBP+ program. This helps producers save time and get their cattle passed on quickly and responsibly!

Find the VBP+ Transfer of Care Record template here.
Find the VBP+ Transfer of Care Record template here. Check out the record example here.

Check out all the record templates and examples that VBP+ offers here.

Potential hazards hidden in plain sight

Emma Cross

consumptionforeignobjectsfactsheet-thumbnailForeign objects can present a food safety issue for consumers who purchase meat products from affected animals later on down the supply chain, and can also impact animal health and welfare prior to slaughter. Luckily, foreign objects are a risk which producers can mitigate on-farm.

In most cases, foreign objects enter animal carcasses in one of two ways. Cattle can either consume them, or they can penetrate the hide and end up lodging within tissues.

When cattle consume foreign objects, the material usually gets caught in the reticulum, where it can irritate the tissue within this chamber and cause pain for the animal. At this stage, cattle present a condition called hardware disease, which causes them to perform poorly and show general signs of discomfort such as a depressed state, poor appetite, and sedentary behavior.

Unfortunately, there are many common foreign objects found on-farm which cattle can easily consume. For example, metal cables on fences or feed bunks can be chewed and break if poorly maintained. Alternatively, fragments of metal or other material left on the ground or deposited in feed from processing equipment are easily consumed by cattle.

The best way for producers to prevent the risk of hardware disease, and its associated food safety concern, is to prevent access to foreign objects. If the operation processes feed, magnets or scalpers can be used to remove scrap metal from feed before it is offered to cattle. Where possible, producers should avoid using materials that could easily produce hardware, such as metal fence cables. If this is not possible, producers should regularly maintain equipment and facilities to avoid fragments becoming accessible to animals. Finally, regular inspection of feeding areas for foreign objects and monitoring of cattle and facilities for incidence and new hazards is key.

In other cases, cattle do not eat the foreign object, but rather rub against one such that it penetrates their hide. If these foreign objects become lodged in muscle and the producer is not aware, meat containing these foreign objects can enter the food chain and lead to consumer distrust and potential injury. In some cases, recalls or refusals of carcasses or portions of a carcass at processing plants may occur.

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Sources of foreign objects that can penetrate cattle hides are relatively similar to those that can cause hardware disease. Scrap metal, derelict buildings, and poorly maintained equipment are easy for cattle to rub against and pick up metal fragments. However, a few common sources are unique to this route of entry. Buckshot or other shrapnel in areas where birds are hunted can enter the animal. Alternatively, metal or hard plastic rollers used for cattle to scratch can deposit small fragments in the hide.

Much like the hazards, the solutions to foreign objects entering animal hides are very similar to those that prevent the consumption of foreign objects. Removing scrap metal and old equipment and restricting access to derelict buildings, metal or hard plastic rollers, or bird hunting areas will aid in preventing access to fragments that could enter the hide. Regular maintenance of equipment and facilities will also reduce risk. Finally, while preventive measures should be emphasized, producers should monitor and document incidence in cattle to avoid entry of foreign objects into the food supply chain.

Regardless of the route of entry, handling foreign objects with cattle relies on the same basic principle: producers should prioritize prevention and maintain good maintenance and inspection to avoid food safety hazards entering the food supply chain.

To brush up on foreign objects, check out VBP+’s two fact sheets on Consumption of Foreign Objects and Penetration of the Hide by Foreign Objects.

VBP+ Producer Reference Manual – Animal Nutrition Section

Emma Cross

The next new section of the VBP+ Producer Reference Manual is out! This manual is a one-stop shop for producers to find certification requirements, sample records, self-assessment tools, and answers to a variety of questions about beef cattle management. With a fresh new look, be sure to check out the newly released Animal Nutrition section to refresh your memory on responsibly feeding your cattle!

The Animal Nutrition section is divided into three parts: General Feeding Practices, Forage Production & Pasture Management, and Medicated Feed & Water Practices. Each section, just like the Animal Health section, includes checklists, self-assessment boxes, and images to learn and help you track your progress towards VBP+ certification.

Click here to view sample records from this section
Click here to view sample records from this section

General Feeding Practices first covers the most basic needs for animals by describing how to ensure that quality and quantity requirements for feed and water are met. Also note that at the beginning of this section, resources from the Beef Cattle Research Council (BCRC) are provided to help evaluate feeds based on nutritional value and cost. Finally, the General Feeding Practices sub-section finishes off by outlining considerations for non-ruminant feed used on farm, other feed ingredients including banned and unconventional feeds, and bedding materials.

As producers know, beef cattle nutrition relies heavily upon forages. The Forage Production & Pasture Management portion of the VBP+ Producer Reference Manual helps producers understand how to make the best use of their forages for their cattle. This includes awareness of toxic and invasive plant species, safe use of crop protection products like herbicides and pesticides, and responsible fertilizer use. Importantly, this sub-section helps producers reap maximum benefit from their forages without sacrificing food safety or animal performance and wellbeing.

Finally, the Medicated Feed & Water Practices sub-section helps producers who add medications to feed or water maximize their utility without sacrificing responsible use. This sub-section covers handling and storage of these medications, responsible dispensing of medicated feed and water, and proper protocols for cleaning associated equipment to maintain on-farm food safety.

Be sure to check out the Animal Nutrition section of the VBP+ Producer Reference Manual and stay tuned for new releases of additional sections!

VBP+ Producer Reference Manual – Animal Health Section

Emma Cross

For producers starting out with the VBP+ program, there are a variety of resources to assist with training and continuous learning, each with their unique uses. While the online training modules offer producers an interactive and streamlined process for learning, the VBP+ Reference Producer Manual is a great resource for producers to use continuously for quick reference and to review important program concepts.

VBP+ has been undertaking an exciting redesign of the VBP+ Producer Reference Manual. In the new version, you will see a refreshing new look and additional tools to help producers best immerse themselves in the VBP+ program. To launch this new manual, VBP+ will be releasing one section at a time, beginning with the Animal Health portion.

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Click here to view the Animal Health section of the Reference Manual

The Animal Health section covers four subcategories: Records, Products & Equipment, Delivery Methods, and Inspection & Monitoring. Each section provides the producer with information on best practices, as well as details specific requirements to obtain VBP+ certification.

For example, the Records portion explains the purpose and utility of each required Animal Health record, as well as lists the information needed in each. This section will help producers streamline the records system they already employ to ensure they include necessary data. Sample records at the end of the section can also offer producers an idea for how to format their own records if they are unsure, with blank record templates available on verifiedbeef.ca.

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Sample Exposure Records

The Products & Equipment sub-section explains best practices for handling and storing animal health products and maintaining related equipment. This section is a great reminder of the considerations needed to ensure optimum performance of animal health products and equipment, in turn supporting better animal productivity.

Similarly, Delivery Methods offers an account of proper procedure for delivering animal health products via different routes. Again, this portion will help producers ensure the success of their herd health protocol in fostering animal performance.

Finally, Inspection & Monitoring helps the producer connect their daily practices in observing their cattle to their herd health protocol by exploring specific points to check in on. Pictures and tables help illustrate examples to enhance understanding of concepts such as body condition scoring.

Key features like checklists of required information or practices are what make this new VBP+ Producer Reference Manual such a valuable tool for new trainees and VBP+ veterans alike. As the program evolves with the industry, the VBP+ Producer Reference Manual provides an up-to-date source to confirm all requirements for certification. Best of all, the new VBP+ Producer Reference Manual includes self-assessment boxes that align with audit indicators to help producers directly evaluate their progress before an audit, with clear designations of the minimum scoring needed in each category. In addition,  sample records are provided at the end of the section to help producers visualize the certification requirements and recognize the elements they already use in their own record-keeping system.

In essence, the VBP+ Producer Reference Manual is a one-stop shop for producers to find audit requirements, self-assessment tools, sample records, and program curriculum in an engaging quick-reference format. Particularly with the self-assessment boxes, this resource will allow producers to compare their operation with certification standards in preparation for an audit to help ensure success. The VBP+ Producer Reference Manual is also a great option for trainees who prefer learning from a print format, and the new style of the manual will enhance this learning experience.

Are you direct marketing beef from your beef operation? Consider VBP+ Certification

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Beef is the preferred protein choice for many consumers across Canada. A unexpected positive for many beef producers due to the COVID -19 pandemic is the outreach from consumers to support home-grown and local beef programs. As prevalent on social media, interest in buying local food direct from producers has blossomed and gained momentum. Loyal beef customers don’t question the quality and safety of eating beef but some folks do have concerns about environmental impacts of beef production and animal welfare issues. As a beef producer, there much you can do to assure your customer that your operation is doing everything right in the interest of the consumer and the animals by becoming trained and certified with the VBP+ program.

VBP+ training covers all 5 pillars of sustainable Beef Production; on-farm food safety, environmental stewardship, animal care, biosecurity, and human resources/community involvement. Taking VBP+ training and becoming certified through an audit is proof you can use to show your customers all aspects of beef production on your farm meets industry standards via third party verification.

VBP+ certification adds value to your unique brand and supports the good practices that you’ve put in place to differentiate your beef product (grass-fed, breed-brand, etc.) Investing in your own product is a huge commitment and VBP+ certification can provide protection of that investment through industry recognized, records and management practice verification and audit.

As a direct-to-market producer, there are many different ways to communicate to your customer about what a VBP+ certification means. VBP+ is has developed a direct to market toolkit to help producers how to effectively communicate about their certification and how to correctly use the VBP+ logo.

You can find the VBP+ Direct Marketer Toolkit and more producer resources at our website: www.verifiedbeef.ca

Click here to download the VBP+ Direct Marketer Toolkit – ENGLISH
Click here to download the VBP+ Direct Marketer Toolkit – FRENCH

Information Updates: Why we ask for them and what we do with them.

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Producers who are certified with VBP+ (audited) are asked to provide information updates every year. There are some excellent reasons for asking for this information. Some of these reasons relate to how we report aggregated data to our stakeholders, who have a vested interest in the value of VBP+, or some items have a direct reporting function for qualification in supply chain programs, such as the Cargill Certified Sustainable Sourcing program.

First, let us discuss what items for which we request information updates. We regularly ask producers to review and update their contact information. If producers change their name, address, postal code, email, primary phone number, etc., we ask that you update that information. These updates allow us to have the most current information if, for whatever reason, we need to contact you. Remember, we would never share this information with anyone without your permission.

We also ask producers to update their head numbers every year. These numbers are a metric that we provide aggregated (not individual) data to stakeholders. For example, twice per year, we provide the Canadian Roundtable for Sustainable Beef with the number of cattle under the management of VBP+ certified operations. This is an impressive number! As of February, there are 1,547,000 head under management. It is important that we have confidence in these numbers when we report, which is why we ask producers to update their numbers every year as we know circumstances change.

We are adding some new information fields, which are of interest to not only stakeholders, but we feel would be of future value to producers participating in VBP+. These information fields pertain to acres under the management of VBP+ certified producers, particularly grazing acres and acres for feed production.

There needs to some clarification about how these fields are defined for the purposes of our reporting. We know that not all information requests fit nicely into simple fields, so what is represented here is how we have determined the definitions so we can clearly articulate what we are reporting.

Let us start with grazing or pasture acres. We have split grazing or pasture acres into native grazing acres and tame grazing acres. These are pasture acres that are grazed, not utilized for forage production, although it is understood that acres, especially tame acres, may be utilized for forage production then grazed. We do not want acres that are used for these dual purposes to be double reported; what we need is the primary use of these acres. These can change from year to year based on conditions, which is why we have added these fields to the annual information update.

Native or naturalized acres can be defined as pasture acres that are unimproved or have been returned to a natural state (naturalized). Unimproved acres are defined as pastures that have not been tilled or direct-seeded. This is a tricky area. It brings up questions on individual scenarios and has been difficult to define previously.  If we leave our definition as acres that have been unimproved or returned to a natural state with natural grass species for 30 years, we can begin to collect this data and potentially contribute to a more concise definition for our whole industry.

Tame or improved acres are defined as acres used for pasture that have been tilled (including direct) and re-seeded utilizing plant or grass species not native to the area. This is an important distinction because it provides information on acres that have been returned to pasture, how often land is returned to a grass rotation and production estimates for improved pasture. Land utilization is an important discussion, and it is, as an industry, in our best interest to collect and report this information as accurately as possible. It is of great value to producers to participate in the VBP+ certification program to show commitment to responsible land management, confirmed by VBP+ certification.

Acres for feed production have been defined as irrigated and dryland acres and include acres utilized for forage (hay) production. Irrigated acres include acres utilized by the operation for grain production, silage production, hay production, etc. Even if the product of these acres is sold as a commodity, it is important to include as they are under the management of a VBP+ operation. Irrigation can be defined by the presence of a water diversion license for irrigation.

Any other acres under the management of the VBP+ operation can be defined under the dryland acres for feed production field. So, acres used for the production of grain, hay, silage, swath grazing, including both annual and perennial crops that are not produced using irrigation. All acres reported can be owned acres, rented acres or leased acres; as long as they are under the management processes and practices verified during certification.

Example of a common information submission from a cow/calf operation
Example of a common information submission from a cow/calf operation

This might seem like a lot of information to gather and report, but there could be substantial potential value to producers who participate in VBP+ certification, so we are proactive in collecting and reporting this data. We are looking forward to the results of the reporting of this aggregated data. What a great story to tell that (estimated) 10,000,000 acres of land are under the management of VBP+ certified producers.

VBP+ represents beef producers across the country at many different levels. Our goal is to ensure that the VBP+ program remains valuable and attainable at a producer level. VBP+ certified producers have a great story to tell, and when we present aggregated information that is accurate to third-party organizations, policy developers, and stakeholders, it is a powerful message.

Are you direct marketing beef from your beef operation?

vbp_wordpress

Consider VBP+ Certification

Beef is the preferred protein choice for many consumers across Canada. A unexpected positive for many beef producers due to the COVID -19 pandemic is the outreach from consumers to support home-grown and local beef programs. As prevalent on social media, interest in buying local food direct from producers has blossomed and gained momentum. Loyal beef customers don’t question the quality and safety of eating beef but some folks do have concerns about environmental impacts of beef production and animal welfare issues. As a beef producer, there much you can do to assure your customer that your operation is doing everything right in the interest of the consumer and the animals by becoming trained and certified with the VBP+ program.

VBP+ training covers all 5 pillars of sustainable beef production; on-farm food safety, environmental stewardship, animal care, biosecurity, and human resources/community involvement. Taking VBP+ training and becoming certified through an audit is proof you can use to show your customers all aspects of beef production on your farm meets industry standards via third party verification.

VBP+ certification adds value to your unique brand and supports the good practices that you’ve put in place to differentiate your beef product (grass-fed, breed-brand, etc.) Investing in your own product is a huge commitment and VBP+ certification can provide protection of that investment through industry recognized, records and management practice verification and audit.

As a direct-to-market producer, there are many different ways to communicate to your customer about what a VBP+ certification means. VBP+ is has developed a direct to market toolkit to help producers how to effectively communicate about their certification and how to correctly use the VBP+ logo.

You can find the VBP+ Direct Marketer Toolkit and more producer resources at our website: www.verifiedbeef.ca

Click here to download the VBP+ Direct Marketer Toolkit – ENGLISH
Click here to download the VBP+ Direct Marketer Toolkit – FRENCH

Explaining the fuss about the Canadian Beef Sustainability Acceleration Pilot

Virgil Lowe, Business Manager, Verified Beef Production Plus

The Canadian Beef Sustainability Acceleration Pilot (CBSA) hopes to achieve in one year what many in the industry have been trying to accomplish for years – deliver a certified sustainable supply chain to foodservice and retail customers.

Led by Cargill, Verified Beef Production Plus (VBP+) and the Beef InfoXchange System, the CBSA aims to sate demand from foodservice and retail companies for gate to plate tracking that verifies the production practices used in raising an animal as sustainable. What’s more, foodservice companies and retailers are helping facilitate the development of a sustainable supply chain in Canada through providing financial incentives for qualifying cattle.

VBP+ plays an important role in the development of a sustainable supply chain. Eligibility for the CBSA requires that all the places an animal stays throughout their lifetime are VBP+ Registered and that they be processed in an audited packing plant (currently Cargill High River). VBP+, a training and on-farm verification program for Canadian beef producers developed and managed by the CCA, is delivered through various provincial beef organizations across the country.

McDonalds, Loblaws, Swiss Chalet, and Original Joe’s are among the foodservice and retailers that have come forward to provide financial incentives for qualifying cattle. This is significant in terms of timing because they are providing financial incentive before they can make claims back to their customers. In other words, McDonalds, Loblaws, Swiss Chalet, and Original Joe’s are so committed to supporting certified sustainable beef (a program that meets commercial Canadian beef industry standards, unlike most other “certified” programs) they are willing to support the development of supply chains to provide it before they can reap the benefits in their stores. Now it is up to us, as producers, to build those supply chains.

Our role in CBSA as beef producers is simple. Complete the VBP+ verification process (including the audit) to become Registered and then try to ensure you sell your calves (or buy calves if you are a backgrounder or feedlot operator) to other VBP+ Registered producers. To get Registered and have your cattle qualify simply:

  1. Be or become a VBP+ Registered Producer;
  2. Be or become a BIXS member;
  3. Age verify or move your cattle to the Canadian Cattle Identification Agency (CCIA) database (either directly or through BIXS).

If you have any questions, please feel free to reach out directly to me or contact your local VBP+ Provincial Coordinator. Stay tuned for updates.(Reprinted with permission from the Canadian Cattlemen’s Association)

Verification Built By Producers, For Producers with the End User in Mind

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My name is Cecilie Fleming and I am a seedstock and cow calf producer from west of Granum, in southwest Alberta. Our operation is a longtime established farmstead surrounded by ranching and feedlot production. Our place consists of farmland, riparian areas, and tame and native grassland ecosystems supporting native species. Is everything perfect on our place? – No. But being a part of Verified Beef Production Plus (VBP+) as Registered Producers has helped us look inward at our operation to see how we can improve and minimize risk.

I sit as the National Chair of the VBP+ Management Committee, the roll of which is to set policies ensuring the VBP+ program is meaningful and usable for beef producers and delivers value. The management committee consists of national producer representation by Province or Region. VBP+ is something that beef producers in Canada can be proud of as an excellent and affordable tool to help them tell their story of beef sustainability to the world. Continue reading “Verification Built By Producers, For Producers with the End User in Mind”