Self-scoring for success

Emma Cross

If you keep up with the VBP+ blog, you might have seen our previous blog post about the development of the VBP+ Producer Portal. In 2020, VBP+ changed their assessment to a system of scoring to be more aligned with the Canadian Roundtable for Sustainable Beef, maintaining the VBP+ equivalency to the CRSB Sustainable Beef Production Standard and associated incentives. But just how do producers use this scoring system?

What is the new scoring system?

The scoring system is a series of questions that help assess whether an operation is meeting the requirements of the VBP+ standard. For a producer, these are the questions that your auditor would go through when they visit your operation for an audit.

Since these questions are new, producers who haven’t done an audit for a few years may not have experienced these questions in an on-farm audit yet. If you have questions about the scoring, please feel free to contact the renewals department at or call 587-328-5980 and choose one of the Renewals Coordinators in the phone directory.

Where does the scoring system appear?

In short, the new scoring system appears throughout the VBP+ standard. “The scoring is very reflective of what the current VBP+ standard looks like,” says Shannon Argent, VBP+ Business Manager.

The Producer Portal is where producers can now submit their renewals (records assessments and self-declarations) electronically. When completing a renewal, producers score themselves using the new system. “A record assessment or self-declaration assesses a portion of the questions you’d be ask at an audit,” says Shannon.

field-guide-coverThe same questions, scoring options, and scoring criteria now appear in all VBP+ producer resources, including the Producer Reference Manual, the VBP+ 2.0 Training on the Canadian Cattle Learning Center, and the Self-Assessment Field Guide.

If you want to explore what the new scoring system looks like, the Self-Assessment Field Guide shows you all of the questions and scoring criteria in a single document.

How does the scoring work?

Each question is defined as either a VBP+ Standard or VBP+ Required question.

VBP+ Standard questions are derived from other standards or industry recommendations, such as the Canadian On-Farm Beef Cattle Biosecurity Standard. These questions have a minimum score of 1 to meet the requirements of the VBP+ program.

VBP+ Required questions deal with critical control points where a record is required to ensure on-farm food safety. These questions have a minimum score of 2 to meet the requirements of the VBP+ program.

For each question, producers can score themselves as N/A, 0, 1, 2, or 3. While each question has individual criteria, the assessments are broadly based on the criteria in the table below.

Score Score Description
N/A This topic does not apply to my operation.

Note: Producers should not use N/A if the topic applies to their operation but they have not had an occurrence. For example, if a producer has a broken needle protocol with a system for record-keeping but has never had a broken needle, they should score themselves a 2, not an N/A. N/A is only intended for questions that are truly not relevant to an operation (ex. the medicated feed/water question on a cow/calf operation that does not use medicated feed or water). 

0 I am not aware of the topic and have no intention of implementing best practices on my operation.

This is a barrier to entry and a corrective action request will be issued.

1 I know about the topic and am learning more about it. I am working towards implementing best practices on my operation.

For a VBP+ Required question, a corrective action request will be issued for a score of 1.

2 I can verbally explain the process that my operation has in place for this topic, and I have a record to show that we are implementing the process.
3 I have a written protocol in place for this topic, and have records to demonstrate successful implementation of the process.

A corrective action request (CAR) is a request for a producer to alter something on their operation to meet the requirements of the VBP+ standard. Receiving a CAR at an audit or on a renewal doesn’t exclude an operation from certification, but rather gives them a timeline to complete the action to meet the standard.

“For the educational resources, there are no corrective actions issued for scoring yourself below the minimum score on the Canadian Cattle Learning Center modules or Self-Assessment Field Guide – the results are never recorded nor assessed,” explains Shannon. These are tools intended to help producers see the scoring before attempting an audit or renewal.

How do I decide which score applies to me?

scoring-example“Self-assessment isn’t easy,” says Shannon. “Producers are a lot harder on themselves than others. You aren’t going to get penalized for being honest. The scores are there to help you as an operation see what you might want to work on or dedicate more resources to.”

On the Producer Portal, producers can click the down arrow beside each question to view the scoring descriptors. Each question has a rubric with specific descriptions of what each score value means for that topic. In essence, each question has a tailored version of the table above to help producers interpret what the scores mean in the context of each question.

These “scoring translations” also appear throughout the VBP+ Producer Reference Manual, and in the Self-Assessment Field Guide.

How do I use the Producer Portal?

microsoftteams-image-18Three months before your certification anniversary date, the renewals department will send you an invite to the Producer Portal by email. Remember to use the same email that received the invite to sign into the Portal to make sure that you can see the form!

If you lose the link, you can find the Portal through our website or click here.

The portal has directions on how to complete a records assessment or self-declaration, including a list of what documents need to be attached. However, we understand that using a new system can be intimidating. We encourage you to contact us at or call 587-328-5980 and choose one of the Renewals Coordinators in the phone directory. Our Renewals Coordinators will happily walk you through completing the form over the phone, or they can ask you the right questions to fill out the form for you, or even send you a paper copy if you prefer.

What happens with the information about my scores?

VBP+ does not share the scores that producers assign to themselves at renewals, nor the scores assigned by an auditor on-farm, with any external party. The scoring system is not punitive and is only used to make sure that operations are meeting the requirements of the VBP+ standard. VBP+ may use an aggregate of all producers’ scores in a particular area to see what areas matter to producers most, for promotion of program accomplishments, or for stakeholders who are supporting sustainability initiatives, but these scores are never tied to an individual operation.


Preparing to ship safely during the fall run

Emma Cross

Originally printed in the September 2022 issue of Canadian Cattlemen

The fall run is not just a busy time of year for auction marts. For cow-calf and feedlot producers, fall is a mad dash of buying and selling. At times like this, it becomes hard to remember some key points related to food safety and animal care that become relevant when shipping calves or other cattle. Luckily, this problem can be easily solved with the help of a shipping record.

The VBP+ Shipping Record template is a single checklist that producers can go through when preparing a load of cattle for shipment. By filling out the document completely, producers can rest assured that they have done their part in ensuring high-quality animal care and food safety. Transportation and entry into the food chain are the points where consumers who are not connected to agriculture have the greatest chance to observe what producers do. So, it is important to make sure that what the public sees is Canadian beef producers’ commitment to these principles.

The top of the shipping record includes three important pieces of information. The year helps producers keep shipping records organized over time. Since the document has several rows, most producers can use only one or two of these sheets per year by recording all of their loads on one document. The premise ID is important for traceability purposes. In the event that an issue is discovered with an animal later on in the food chain, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency can use this record to trace the issue back to the premises of origin and prevent further hazards from entering the food chain. Finally, while the ranch/producer name might seem obvious to the recorder, this identification helps make this document useful proof of attention to the checks included in the record.

The next three columns help the producer associate the checks contained in the record with specific animals from their herd. The type of cattle column allows the producer to indicate the general class of cattle being shipped. This column is useful for quick reference when looking back on the record. For example, writing “weaned calves” in this column would help the producer remember that they had completed the shipping record when shipping their calves in the fall after weaning.

Similarly, the cattle identification column lets a producer narrow down which cattle they are referring to in the record. This specificity is important because it ensures that the three important checks in the last columns of the record are actually associated with the cattle being shipped. This identification can apply to single animals in the case of small loads or refer to groups of cattle using the producer’s own identification systems. The number of head allows for verification that the number of cattle that end up on the truck matches the number of cattle which were confirmed for safe shipment using the shipping record.

Recording the destination and trucker further aids in traceability in case an issue arises down the line. This column adds another pin on the map of where cattle move in their lifetime, helping officials track down the source of a problem should one come up. The trucker information is important for this same reason, as well as to have a record of the verification of a safe shipment before transferring care of the livestock from producer to trucker.

The final three columns are the “meat and potatoes” of the shipping record. These columns provide proof that a producer has done their due diligence in three key areas of responsible production. Firstly, indicating withdrawal check completed with a check mark shows that the producer has reviewed other records to confirm that the cattle in the shipment are not in a withdrawal period for an animal health product. While checking treatment records for the animals in the shipment is an obvious step, it is also important to think of other records linked to withdrawals, such as documentation of herbicide or pesticide usage. If animals grazed on pasture with a particular chemical, they may be subject to withdrawal for this reason as well. For cow-calf producers, it is important to note that animals may be shipped to a feedlot while still on withdrawal provided that their withdrawal information is sent to the feedlot operator along with them. This step will allow the feedlot operator to assume responsibility for ensuring that residues will not end up in carcasses.

The broken needle record check column is similar to the previous column in that it directs the producer to refer to a different document. The producer checks this box to indicate that they have reviewed records of broken needle occurrences on farm and confirmed that none of the animals in the shipment were involved in a broken needle incident. If cattle have broken needles, they should be retained for own consumption and the processor can be made aware of the location of the broken needle.

The final column verifies the fit for transport evaluation. This section requires the producer to observe the cattle in the shipment to verify that each individual can be safely transported without risk to animal welfare. In short, an animal is fit for transport if it can be expected to arrive at its destination in good condition. Lameness, injuries, and disease are all factors that can classify animals as either compromised, requiring transport with special provisions, or unfit for transport. Animals that are unfit for transport cannot be transported unless for veterinary diagnosis or care. The National Farm Animal Care Council (NFACC) Code of Practice for the Care and Handling of Beef Cattle contains a decision tree to help producers distinguish between these classes. This resource is also available within the Vulnerable, Distressed, and High-Risk Cattle section of the VBP+ Producer Reference Manual, available at

Shipping records are one of the key critical control points for producers to attend to in protecting food safety and animal care standards. This sample record, as well as a blank template for producer use, can be found under the Producer Resources tab of