Hauling Poultry is Now Certifiable
By Leslie Ballentine
The Canadian Livestock Transport training and certification program is providing consistent information for livestock haulers
By Leslie Ballentine
While most people will never see the inside of a barn, many do see livestock and poultry as they pass by on our roadways. Whether in rural or urban areas, livestock transport is highly visible. Transport accidents involving animals nearly always get reported in the media, and public complaints to enforcement authorities are a repeated occurrence. All too often the subject is heightened by concerned citizens who have limited understanding of acceptable and necessary industry practices. But sometimes their concerns are warranted.
In a day and age when many Canadians are showing growing interest in food production practices, animal transport is also one of growing contention. It’s rumoured that the federal agriculture minister receives more correspondence on animal welfare in general, and livestock transport in particular, than any other topic. It is known however that issues related to transport are also placing a burden on government regulators, enforcement agencies, and on the supply chain from producer to processor.
It is for these reasons that the Canadian Livestock Transport (CLT) training and certification program was invented. Begun as a pilot project in 2007 through Alberta Farm Animal Care (AFAC) in association with its sister animal care associations in Saskatchewan, Manitoba and Ontario, CLT has since been expanded and updated. Rolled out as a national program in late 2013 under the auspices of the Canadian Animal Health Coalition the CLT program began actively offering a poultry transport training and certification program this past spring. Joining the three CLT programs offered for cattle and sheep, hogs, and horses, the poultry program covers layers, broilers and turkeys.
To become certified, each trainee must attend a course delivered by a CLT certified instructor and pass a competency exam presented at the end of the training.
Stéphane Beaudoin is a private animal welfare consultant and a certified CLT program instructor based in Quebec. Since first offering the poultry course this past April he says he has had 300 drivers, catchers and plant personnel sign up. Beaudoin is providing the 4-hour classroom training courses and examinations in locations across Quebec, and the feed-back has been extremely positive, he says.
“Attendees at every session I’ve held so far all tell me that for the very first time the entire transport chain is getting consistent information.” They appreciate the factual, unbiased information that CLT gives them, he says. And they feel it is information that is needed by all the players in the sector.
While incorporating the recommendations contained in the Codes of Practice, CLT goes further by providing practical and effective best practices. By using a classroom setting, Beaudoin says, participants are also able to learn from each other’s real-life experiences and ideas.
“Many will share their own experiences about how challenging it is at times to ensure birds are transported properly under less-than-ideal situations. Sharing with others also helps trainees better realize that animal welfare is the responsibility of all the players within the sector.”
Livestock transport specialist Jennifer Woods runs J. Woods Livestock Services out of Blackie, Alberta. She was among the original group that created the pilot program and she continues to help guide the growth and evolution of CLT. The animals benefit the most from the driver training, she says. But there are also significant economic paybacks. “We in the industry have always known that poultry are more vulnerable to morbidity and mortality and that in sheer numbers alone those transport losses exceed losses in other livestock sectors.” Over the years, the poultry industry has made progress in reducing transport losses and a part of that has been achieved by following effective procedures and changing our practices, she says. Chickens and turkeys make up the vast majority (roughly 87%) of all farm animals raised in Canada each year.
The Canadian Food Inspection Agency and the Canadian Meat Council recommend it, but CLT continues to be a voluntary training program. Now that it is available, however, the L’Association des abattoirs avicoles du Québec (AAAQ), and the Ontario Poultry Services Association have directed their members to obtain CLT poultry certification.
Daniel Dufour, Secrétaire General of AAAQ says his member companies, which make up 100 per cent of the commercial processors in Quebec, have asked for CLT certification as a part of a collective approach to continuous improvement. “The companies, the drivers and catching companies all want to do it,” he says. Dufour estimates that about 50 pe rcent of those taking the certification are drivers and catching crew supervisors while the remainder are procurement and plant management personnel. They all like CLT, he explains, because it requires re-certification every three years, so not only does it teach new information but it also provides a refresher.
“CLT also provides proof that we in Quebec follow good practices,” he says. CLT will be a minimum requirement for drivers, old and new, who haul for Quebec poultry plants. Discussions are also underway to eventually involve producers and to follow-up with further education and hands-on workshops. “The time is now,” Dufour says and CLT is the first step in a team approach.
Transport issues also create a black eye for the industry. Most recent are the court cases involving Maple Lodge Farms in Ontario and Lilydale Farms in B.C.
The Canadian Food Inspection Agency laid charges against Maple Lodge Farms under the Health of Animals Act for failing to transport chickens humanely after some 2,000 birds died from cold exposure on two trips to slaughter in the winter of 2008-2009. In passing sentence, Ontario Superior Court Justice Nancy Kastner said “lack of adequate training, personnel, or equipment” contributed to the high mortality rate of the transported birds.
Lilydale is, at the time of writing, facing four similar charges laid by the CFIA. The charges stem from exposing chickens to freezing temperatures while transporting them from Chilliwack to its slaughterhouse in Port Coquitlam on January 18, 2012.
These two cases alone have involved thousands of birds, significant investigation man-hours, lengthy court proceedings and negative publicity for the agriculture and food industry, says Wood. “Had these companies been able at the time to train their drivers under CLT these charges might not have happened.” That is because transport in extreme temperatures is one of the training components contained in CLT.
Each of the four species modules encompasses all aspects of transportation including pre-loading, loading, time in transit and arrival at the destination. Topics include animal welfare, regulations, handling and behaviour, environmental considerations, equipment and emergency response. Woods explains that each module has been developed based on the specific needs of each of the individual species groups.
When asked who benefits from CLT, Woods says “just about everyone.” Her list includes the producers who depend on competent transporters: Whether it’s moving birds from barn to barn or barn to plant.
Governments, which are under pressure to enact new regulations, increase enforcement and to step up court prosecutions for offenders, benefit from the higher compliance that comes from properly trained transporters and handlers.
Processors, who use properly trained personnel can avoid costly mistakes and as added value can include CLT certification to their social responsibility portfolios.
And while Canadian retailers aren’t yet demanding proof of transportation competency to go along with their animal welfare assurance policies, signals on the horizon say it won’t be far off. Woods adds that certificate of competency will also become part of international trade agreements as we move forward.
Beaudoin says he is teaching more than just drivers. Training is beneficial, and in some instances required, for dispatchers, handlers (at farms and sales yards) plant crews, loading crews and
Wood’s says CLT has established itself as a credible program recognized by processing plants and industry groups in both Canada and the U.S. She says that transportation is a vital part of livestock and poultry production that requires special skills and knowledge. It takes professionals she says, and CLT is a part of that.