Training, Tools Improves Animal Welfare During Transportation

CANADA - Farm-Scape: Episode 2286. Farm-Scape is a Wonderworks Canada production and is distributed courtesy of Manitoba Pork Council and Sask Pork.
calendar icon 28 October 2006
clock icon 7 minute read

Farm-Scape, Episode 2286

With the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) preparing to revamp sections of the Health of Animals Act that deal with the transportation of livestock, Western Canada's pork industry is already well ahead of the curve.

U.S. Based Trucker Training Available in Manitoba and Saskatchewan

About 800 truckers in Saskatchewan and Manitoba are now certified under the Trucker Quality Assurance program to transport hogs. The training program was created by the U.S. pork industry to educate U.S. producers, handlers and truckers on the importance of proper handling, loading and transporting of pigs with special attention to biosecurity and animal welfare. The training has been credited with steady improvements in the condition of hogs arriving at U.S. packing plants since 2002, the year the National Pork Board (NPB) launched it. And, despite the program being voluntary, most U.S. processors will now only accept hogs delivered to their packing plants by TQA certified drivers.

Sask Pork Offers Training in Saskatchewan-ACC in Manitoba

In Saskatchewan the training is provided through the Saskatchewan Pork Development Board under a licensing agreement with the National Pork Board. In Manitoba, both the U.S. TQA program and a Canadian addendum to the American package are offered by Assiniboine Community College. “Anyone involved in the loading and unloading and transportation of hogs, especially the truckers, that's who this program is for,” states Deanne Miller, the instructor of ACC's Swine Transportation and Handling course.

“But anybody in the barn, producers who are loading pigs, especially receivers at packing plants, they should take this course as well.”

Miller notes the U.S. manual includes chapters on driver attitude, using animal behavior and natural instincts, the flight zone and point of balance, aggressive handling, loading and unloading, fitness of the hogs, facilities and equipment, space and so on.

Transportation a Stressful Time

“Transportation is a very stressful time for hogs and anything you can do to reduce the issues is a real benefit,” says Saskatchewan Pork Development Board (Sask Pork) producer services manager Harvey Wagner.

The concept behind the program is to teach people the basic skills they can use to reduce stress and improve the condition of hogs during transportation.

Trainees go through a two-hour training program and write an exam.

“If they pass the exam, they get a certificate and then they have delivery privileges to pretty much any plant in North America,” says Wagner.

There are some plants in the United States and in Canada, notably Mitchell’s Gourmet Foods in Saskatoon, that require transporters to have TQA training.

Wagner estimates 650 transporters with Saskatchewan addresses have taken the program and received certification. Just over 200 people have taken ACC's Swine Transportation and Handling course since its introduction approximately one year ago.

In Manitoba, Miller notes there are no plants or processors that require certification to date but Maple Leaf has indicated that, at some point, they will require both the U.S. and probably the Canadian certification.

“Part of the reason we're doing this program now, ahead of the game, is so we can be proactive and let truckers take the program before they need to have the certification.”

Hutterite Colonies Drive Uptake in Manitoba

ACC Ag Extension Program Coordinator Mary Petersen says she has found that the Hutterite colonies have embraced the need to have this instruction and want all their truckers certified. “They have a number of people that are at the colony and they may be able to drive the truck, but they don't understand the handling of animals,” says Petersen. “This course helps them to address this gap.”

She notes Mitchell’s in Saskatoon has made the course mandatory and word travels fast in the Hutterite communities.

Companion Canadian Component Focuses on Canadian Conditions

To complement the U.S. package, ACC has developed its own companion Canadian package.

Miller explains, “We felt as an industry that the U.S. manual did not have enough information on certain topics and it actually missed a few topics like the CQA, handling weanlings, biosecurity and, of course, Canadian regulations .”

As a result, the Canadian portion was written as an addendum to the U.S. material. It adds extra detail to sections in the U.S. package as well as information on Canadian Quality Assurance, the Animal Care Assessment Tool, cold weather hauling, handling early weaned pigs and specifically Canadian regulations.

New Manifest Assists with Animal Welfare

A tool that was developed by Sask Pork to help assist in the development of traceability within the swine industry is also helping to improve animal welfare during transportation.

A new trucker’s manifest has been in circulation in Saskatchewan since April. The first printing of the manifest was gobbled up quickly, but now copies are in the hands of most truckers in the province.

Sask Pork’s Wagner explains that it is part of being able to understand where the animals come from and where they're going to so we can follow them along the whole chain through production and movement and then processing and food distribution in a more orderly fashion.

He points out this document also contains sections for comment by every party, the farmer, the transporter and the packing plant. If there's anything that's gone wrong or there is any challenge or issue anywhere along the whole chain, it can be noted.

“If there's an animal that's got a limp or injured himself during the transportation process, it can be noted on there so the other parties know what happened.”

In Saskatchewan, Trucker Quality Assurance training is delivered by Sask Pork, under a licensing agreement with the National Pork Board.

Under that agreement the National Pork Board provides the manuals and materials, processes completed examination forms and maintains a database, accessible by U.S. and Canadian packing plants, of certified drivers.

Costs for the service are covered by Sask Pork through the levy it collects on the sale of hogs produced in Saskatchewan as one of the services it offers the province's hog industry.

“It's not inexpensive to develop a program and to maintain it and it seems like a cost-effective way of doing it,” Wagner explains.

“We are cooperating with the National Pork Board and U.S. pork producers on a fairly regular basis in many different areas, so it's just a natural fit. We have this continental market and pigs are moving all over, all the time and it just makes sense to work together.”

Universal Access to Training Important

Wagner believes the key is to make the information available to producers and to transporters, particularly the guys on some farms that may not be working in the barn. They may just haul pigs and they don't have quite as much background to understand that pigs have needs of their own and have specific requirements in transportation and handling.

“We’re not going to teach them everything about how to handle pigs in an afternoon,” Wagner concedes. “But the idea is to raise awareness and plant the seed that these animals need to be treated in a specific manner that meets their needs.”

For Farmscape.Ca, I'm Bruce Cochrane.

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