Dairy code raises expectations of cattle health and welfare

"A healthy cow is happy cow," Devan Toop told The Progress. "The better the shape they're in, the better it is."

Devan Toop is herd manager and HR manager on the family dairy farm. 'I aim to create an environment where everyone enjoys being here — especially the cows

Devan Toop is herd manager and HR manager on the family dairy farm. 'I aim to create an environment where everyone enjoys being here — especially the cows

The National Dairy Code of Practice announced last week will formalize ways of improving the health and welfare of dairy cows.

The new Dairy Code focuses on animal handling, feeding, housing, and husbandry practices.

“A lot of the health and welfare, and cattle handling is new,” said Devan Toop, a Chilliwack dairy farmer. “Before they were more common knowledge among farmers and veterinarians, but now they are on paper and enforceable.”

Toop is the herd manager and HR manager on the family dairy farm.

“I aim to create an environment where everyone enjoys being here — especially the cows,” he said.

His grandfather works with the young stock, while his dad takes care of the feeding and milking as well as field work.

The new dairy code was announced jointly by BC SPCA and B.C. government officials last week in the wake of dairy cow abuse evidence that surfaced last summer with a Mercy for Animals video shot at Chilliwack Cattle Sales operation, Canada’s largest dairy farm on Prairie Central Road. The video footage showed cows being kicked, punched and struck with a cane.

The province, B.C. SPCA, B.C. Dairy Association, B.C. Milk Marketing Board and the dairy industry have been working to further strengthen measures to protect the welfare of dairy cattle at B.C.’s 500 dairy operations, most of which are in the Fraser Valley.

“The Canadian dairy industry is going a step further with this proactive program. It is currently being implemented and failure to follow guidelines can result in farmers not getting their milk approved for pickup,” said Toop.

Those highly publicized examples of animal abuse last June were definitely not the industry norm, he emphasized.

“The overwhelming majority of dairy farmers treat their animals with great care, because the success of a dairy farm depends on how well their cows are treated,” Toop said. “I hope the code will give a fresh perspective on management to those farms that need to improve.”

It makes a big difference.

“A healthy cow is happy cow,” Toop said in an interview last year. “The better the shape they’re in, the better it is. It sounds simple but it is a lot of work.”

Charges under B.C.’s Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act can be laid against anyone who causes suffering or distress to an animal, including owners, managers and workers in the ag sector.

Maximum penalties that can be levied under provincial legislation against someone convicted of causing distress to an animal is $75,000 and up to 24 months in jail, which are the toughest in Canada.

jfeinberg@theprogress.com

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