Developing the VBP+ producer portal

Emma Cross

Part of the power of the Verified Beef Production Plus (VBP+) program is the simplicity and efficiency of the audit cycle. Combining the on-farm audit, records assessments and self-declarations throughout the five-year audit cycle offers producers the flexibility of participation without a yearly on-farm assessment. At the same time, this system provides assurance that best practices and processes are being maintained on VBP+ certified operations throughout the five-year cycle.  

In 2020, VBP+ adjusted our standard to be more fully equivalent with the Canadian Roundtable for Sustainable Beef (CRSB) Beef Production indicators. Throughout this process, VBP+ continued our alignment with the National Farm Animal Care Council (NFACC) Animal Care Assessment Framework and more completely integrated the National Beef Biosecurity Standard, while maintaining our commitment to meeting On-Farm Food Safety standards. Part of the adjustment to more robust equivalency with CRSB was a shift to a scoring system for each question associated with an audit or annual assessment. Obtaining a score for each question in the standard not only captures the continuous improvement realized on beef operations in Canada, but also aligns with the CRSB scoring system, enabling better reporting on metrics important to stakeholders and members of the CRSB.  

This system, along with the introduction of the VBP+ electronic audit tool has been utilized in all VBP+ certifications since 2020, but to maintain consistency for existing certified operations, our records assessments and self-declarations were still based on the previous standard. Not anymore! In July of 2023, VBP+ rolled out Phase 2. This phase consists of a re-designed records assessment and self-declaration as well as a producer portal to make it easier for producers to submit their renewals.  

What’s different is that the questions asked on a records assessment are now a reflection of the new VBP+ standard and include a self-scoring component. We will get more in-depth on how producers can score themselves in a future article, but in a nutshell, producers are asked to score the question as they themselves see the practices they implement on their operations. There is an information button beside each of the questions to guide the producer, as well as buttons to attach documentation for resolution of Critical Control Point (CCP) questions.  The form, as well as the portal itself, also include helpful resource materials and contacts producers can call or email to help guide them through the new process, as well as mechanisms to provide feedback to VBP+. 

Planning of the next phase of the rollout is underway and is expected to include a producer key performance indicator (KPI) report, similar to the KPI report sent to producers upon the completion of an on-farm audit that can provide feedback to producers in all areas of the standard.  

VBP+, as a program, continually strives to deliver its education and certification activities in the most efficient way possible for the producers it represents as well as meet the goals and expectations of end-users and stakeholders.  

New resources available for producers seeking certification

Emma Cross

VBP+ has been working on some new resources to help make it easier for producers to prepare for certification. The Self-Assessment Field Guide and two new online courses guide a producer though the VBP+ audit criteria to help ensure success.

self-assessment-field-guide-coverThe Self-Assessment Field Guide is a document that is intended to be taken out onto an operation to help a producer understand how they are performing in the areas of assessment for an audit. The guide lists each area assessed during an audit, with the scoring descriptors for each topic.

The minimum score is highlighted on each question as either a VBP+ Standard or VBP+ Required item. VBP+ Standard items have a minimum score of 1, requiring an understanding and awareness of the area. VBP+ Required questions have a minimum score of 2 and are considered Critical Control Points, meaning records will be requested.

In each scoring table, there is a blank column for a producer to check off their own assessment of how they are performing. Once the producer has gone through the guide, they can review their responses and decide where they might need to make changes or review the VBP+ 2.0 training before scheduling an audit.

The Self-Assessment Field Guide is available on our website on the Producer Reference Manual page. Click here for a PDF version.

Going hand in hand with the field guide, VBP+ has created an online Pre-Certification Self-Assessment course through the Canadian Cattle Learning Center. This course offers the same list of required areas and their corresponding scoring, but in a convenient online format that delivers a producer with a summary of their results.

Finally, the VBP+ Certification Process online course is a quick online module on the Canadian Cattle Learning Center that goes over all the steps that a producer must go through to get certified. This is a great resource for producers who are still considering the program and want to know what they are signing up for, or for producers who have started the process and need direction for next steps.

cclc-dashboard-screenshotBoth the Pre-Certification Self-Assessment and the Certification Process courses, as well as other VPB+ training material, can be accessed by creating a free account in the Canadian Cattle Learning Center. From the Dashboard, scroll down to Featured Courses to find the Pre-Certification Self-Assessment. These two courses are offered at no cost.  

All of these resources will be available in French. For more VBP+ resources, explore our website and stay tuned to the VBP+ blog and social media!

Navigating change: Keeping VBP+ up to date on changes to your operation

Emma Cross

Change is inevitable. But when beef operations make big adjustments, management changes as well. Keeping VBP+ up to date on your operation is key to staying current with the program.

While an audit is a great assessment of an operation, it can only capture a snapshot of the operation in time. Record assessments and self-declarations provide regular points for VBP+ to check in with producers and see what has changed, making sure everything is still on the right track.

It is important to remember that the VBP+ is a five-year audit cycle. The on-farm audit is an important first assessment, but the records assessments and self-declarations are in themselves annual assessments as well as important points to update information. Five years is a long time, it is very possible producers are making operational decisions that make sense during those five years.

Sometimes beef producers make big changes that have equally big impacts on management practices. VBP+ needs your help to know when those changes are made so we can continue to help you be as efficient, accurate, and sustainable as you can be.

One of the biggest changes an operation can make is adding or removing enterprises. As producers know, managing a cow-calf operation is drastically different than a feedlot. Deciding to background or finish your own calves adds additional complexity to your operation, particularly the aspects of management that are highlighted in the VBP+ standard.

Changing enterprises also means changing audit level. The table below outlines the three types of audit that VBP+ offers, which are defined by the production phases that the operation is involved in.

The three audit levels defined by VBP+ differ by production phase, affecting price
The three audit levels defined by VBP+ differ by production phase, affecting price

With more production phases involved in an operation, more time is required by auditors and staff to review records, management practices, and documentation. Therefore, the annual cost of an audit is higher for a more complex audit level. However, by offering a combined audit at a slightly higher cost, the producer does not have to perform the same paperwork, audit, and other tasks for each enterprise they are involved in.

An ideal time to inform the renewals team of a change is when submitting the annual information update. However, if a major change is occurring outside the time frame of your annual renewal event, notifying the VBP+ renewals team as early as possible is the best practice. Ideally, a producer will reach out before a change actually occurs. Advance notice will let the VBP+ team reflect these changes to both maximize potential qualification and minimize disruption to any incentive programming as soon as possible. For renewals team contact information, go to the Contact Us page on our website and scroll down to VBP+ Delivery Services Inc.

Whether informing the renewals team of a change before or after it occurs, producers should provide a brief summary of what the change is. Key details could include major changes in the number of head managed, added or removed enterprises, and additional facilities. After this initial conversation, the renewals team will send the producer an operation change form to gather more details that will inform the next steps.

The required actions following a major change on a certified operation are handled on a case-by-case basis. For example, a producer deciding to finish their own calves using the same facilities and staff will require different actions than a producer purchasing a new facility, designing a new management system, and hiring new staff to finish their own calves. Follow-up actions can range from an enhanced record assessment, a trigger of an on-farm audit, and a brand-new certification starting a new five-year audit cycle.

Above all, VBP+ wants to help producers take advantage of the benefits to certification. Keeping the renewals team up to date on major changes to your operation will ensure that they can keep you accurate and current on your certification status, maintaining your access to program benefits.

Canadian Cattle Learning Centre: More than just training

Emma Cross

One of the exciting new elements of the Canadian Cattle Learning Centre is the redesigned online VBP+ training modules. However, this new platform isn’t just for new members of the VBP+ program.

Most obviously, training evolves with the changing Canadian beef industry. Certified producers who enroll in the Canadian Cattle Learning Centre can review the new VBP+ training modules to see what has been updated to reflect changes since they took the training. Additionally, operations that seek out additional training outside of the VBP+ program can upload these experiences to their transcript to demonstrate commitment to continuous improvement.

In addition, no one’s memory is perfect! An enrolment fee of $50 secures access to the Canadian Cattle Learning Centre for five years, letting producers come back to the training modules as much as they’d like to review concepts and program requirements. The new training also features self-assessments throughout to help producers track their progress towards meeting all standards. This tool can help certified producers reassess their operations to make sure they are still meeting requirements throughout the five-year audit cycle, particularly before records assessments and self declarations.

The Canadian Cattle Learning Centre is far from complete. In the future, VBP+ will continue to develop and add new training opportunities to the platform, providing centralized access to a variety of learning. A module focusing on the pre-certification process to help prepare new producers and operations seeking re-certification is currently in the works.

A visual overview of the 2030 Canadian Beef Industry Goals
A visual overview of the 2030 Canadian Beef Industry Goals

Most importantly, the Canadian Cattle Learning Centre has relevance in the big picture of the Canadian beef industry. The Canadian Beef Advisors released a set of nationally framed goals for the industry, which focus on securing environmental, social, and economic security into the future. Many of these goals are targeted at maintaining public trust in the Canadian beef industry.

VBP+ producers already demonstrate commitment to sustainable beef production by meeting program requirements. However, industry advocates need a way to show tangible evidence of the good work of Canadian beef producers to policymakers, consumers, and other stakeholders. Training rates on the Canadian Cattle Learning Centre, as well as producer transcripts, will provide simple metrics to communicate the dedication of Canadian beef producers to continuous improvement as the industry evolves in response to consumer demands.

In general, the Canadian Cattle Learning Centre is a win-win-win situation. Producers gain an easy to access, engaging platform for training and a simple way to track their industry-related education. Industry advocates acquire a simple method for communicating the good work that Canadian farmers and ranchers are already doing. Finally, other stakeholders outside of the industry, including consumers, gain confidence in the safety and sustainability of the Canadian beef on their plates.

To register for the Canadian Cattle Learning Centre, click here.

To learn more about the Canadian Cattle Learning Centre and how to sign up, see the last VBP+ blog post.

Explore the brand new Canadian Cattle Learning Centre

Emma Cross

Canadian beef producers are always keen to make their operations the best they can be. However, taking time away from the farm to seek out learning opportunities is rarely easy. Luckily, VBP+ has launched the Canadian Cattle Learning Centre to make it easy for ranchers to improve their operations from the comfort of their own homes.

The Canadian Cattle Learning Centre houses the brand new eleven online training modules for the VBP+ program. Producers can take the training at their own pace as they navigate through content which has been refreshed to be more engaging and relevant to the modern industry. The modules include graphics, animations, links to key resources, and interactive activities to make training more effective and more fun!

One of the key features of the new online training is the self-assessment tool. Throughout each module, trainees are presented with questions to reflect on how their operation is doing in relation to key VBP+ program requirements. While responses are not evaluated by auditors, producers can view and print their results to assess their progress towards meeting all requirements for a successful audit.

As well as the VBP+ training modules, producers can also upload other training that they have completed outside of the VBP+ program. The Canadian Cattle Learning Centre compiles these opportunities into a transcript, allowing producers to demonstrate their commitment to continuous improvement on their operations through education. In the future, VBP+ is looking to create additional content to provide more training opportunities directly through the Canadian Cattle Learning Centre.

How to Sign Up






To register for the Canadian Cattle Learning Centre, click here. Follow the sign-up process below:

  1. Hit Log In at the top right corner, then choose Sign Up at the bottom of the pop up menu.
  2. Enter your personal information and click Sign Up.
  3. Enroll in the course Subscription 2022 and pay the $50 enrolment fee for five years of access.
  4. Enroll in the VBP+ 2.0 course to take the online training.

To take the entire course one module at a time, please select the individual modules/lessons. While completing individual modules provides the complete training and includes self-assessments for each module, there is no self-assessment summary provided at the end of each module.

Need Help?

If you have questions about the Canadian Cattle Learning Centre or the new online training, please reach out to your provincial coordinator. These individuals are there to help guide you through the VBP+ program every step of the way and help you achieve success in training and/or certification.

To find the contact information for your provincial coordinator, click here.

Expecting emergencies: Preparing for disease outbreaks

Emma Cross

Despite our industry’s best efforts, emergencies happen. As in any aspect of life, producers can respond best when disaster strikes by being prepared well beforehand.

The newest section of the VBP+ Producer Reference Manual, Emergency Response Plan, has just been released. This tenth module of the manual walks producers through being prepared for various types of crises that can occur on-farm, from natural disasters to equipment failure.

Among the topics of concern under this section of the manual are animal health emergencies, including outbreaks of reportable diseases like foot-and-mouth disease (FMD). FMD is an non-treatable, infectious disease that can be rapidly spread between animals and operations. According to the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA), FMD can cause the following symptoms:

  • Depressed behaviour
  • Increased body temperature
  • Vesicles (blisters) on the tongue, lips, teats, and hooves
  • Reduced appetite and milk production

The virus that causes FMD can be spread by direct contact with infected livestock, but CFIA also notes that animals can contract FMD via airborne transmission over long distances. Indirect transmission can also occur if animals have contact with any kind of clothing, equipment, facilities, vehicles, feed, or water contaminated with the virus.

Luckily, FMD is currently absent from the Canadian cattle herd. However, introduction of this disease from another country could cause a larger outbreak that would have disastrous effects on Canada’s stance in the global beef trade, as well as on animal welfare.

As a country “free of FMD”, Canada prohibits imports of animals or animal products of susceptible species unless they have been processed to destroy any potential FMD virus contamination. Similarly, if Canada were to encounter an outbreak, global trade barriers would be imposed upon Canadian beef exports until a disease-free status was recovered. CFIA explains that an outbreak of FMD would lead to euthanasia of all animals infected or exposed to the virus as well as protocols for quarantine, tracing, and decontamination.

Due to the potential consequences of an FMD outbreak and the ability of the disease to spread rapidly even without direct animal contact, surveillance for and early detection of FMD is key. The Animal Health Emergency Management (AHEM) project has released two resources to help beef and dairy producers contribute.

Click here to view the AHEM project's Preparing for Animal Disease Emergencies brochure.
Click here to view the AHEM project’s Preparing for Animal Disease Emergencies brochure.

“It is important for producers to be proactive in preparing for animal health emergencies, such as a foot-and-mouth disease outbreak,” says Todd Bergen-Henengouwen, Resource Development lead with the Animal Health Emergency Management project. “Knowing what to look for and how to respond can make a difference in preventing the spread or limiting the impact of a contagious animal disease.”

The Animal Health Emergency Management Summary Brochure informs producers of the response phases for animal health emergencies. This document includes specific steps for operations to follow in first understanding the importance of emergency response, preparing for emergencies on their own operation, and finally responding to an outbreak on-farm or elsewhere.


Click here to view the AHEM project's Detecting Foot-and-Mouth Disease in Cattle brochure.
Click here to view the AHEM project’s Detecting Foot-and-Mouth Disease in Cattle brochure.

The AHEM project also released another document, titled Detecting Foot-and-Mouth Disease in Cattle, which focuses specifically on FMD. This resource shows producers how to recognize the signs of FMD and details what actions to follow if FMD is detected, as well as what to expect from an outbreak.

These two documents align closely with the recommendations of the Emergency Response Plan module of the VBP+ Producer Reference Manual. FMD detection is an excellent example of the need to be prepared for disasters before they happen. Take a chance to review the new module, along with the AHEM documents, to be prepared for whatever may come your way.

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.


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!