Trucking group still looking for clarification on new livestock transport rules

Latest changes need to be shared before February implementation: OLTA

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[UPDATED Oct. 10, 2019] Efforts to clarify several issues with looming federal livestock hauling regulations are ongoing, attendees at the recent Shakespeare Swine Seminar were told.

Ontario Livestock Transporters’ Alliance Executive Director Susan Fitzgerald said that the updated regulations come into effect in February 2020.

Why it matters: Significant fines or requirements to change practices could be ordered under the updated livestock transportation regulations.

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Enforcement will be phased in, with “education and letters of warning” expected for several months. Eventually, though, there will be orders issued — orders to undertake training, or make improvements to facilities or equipment. And there could be fines — small, or, Fitzgerald noted, “up to hundreds of thousands of dollars if it’s a very serious issue.”

The regulations being replaced in the federal Health of Animals Act were written in 1977, a fact animal welfare advocates often use when they question the practices of farmers, livestock haulers and slaughterhouse personnel.

The OLTA, formed in 2017, now has 13 livestock hauling companies and five associate members including Conestoga Meat Packers and Ontario Pork.

When the second-draft regulations were published in February, the organization asked the Canadian Food Inspection Agency for clarification on a number of matters.

Compromised animals was one area of concern, Fitzgerald said. “If it falls under ‘unfit’ (as opposed to ‘compromised’), it’s really not going anywhere, unless a veterinarian signs off that it’s going for treatment.” But because the wording on “compromised” isn’t clear, she’s concerned, “because, with different CFIA inspectors, it could be a different idea of what’s lame or what’s compromised.”

For the transporter, a challenging aspect is that they are listed as “responsible for every animal on the load. And you’re not going to be able to see every animal on the load, so I don’t know exactly how this is going to be enforced,” Fitzgerald said.

Questions about ramps

When the second-draft regulations were released, there was a section her organization had never seen previously calling for a maximum of 20 per cent slope on ramps. Since this came out, OLTA has been working to determine if this includes interior ramps as well as exterior ramps. If it’s interior, Fitzgerald cautioned, there’s either going to have to be some process for a lot of existing trailers to be grandfathered, or a lot of trailers will suddenly be in contravention and will need to be replaced.

She said one CFIA official told her the regulations are very specific to external ramps only. But she doesn’t see it as conclusive.

In this and other unclear matters, Fitzgerald said, “it’s going to probably come down to individual inspectors; some are a little bit more aggressive than others.” Or it will come down to the established relationship between that trucker and/or trucking company, and that particular inspector.

Information can be found by Google searching Interpretive Guidance for Regulated Parties and CFIA.

Waiting on changes

Fitzgerald’s organization was told by CFIA that this was a first draft of the document, and that it would be changed before the regulations become law.

“That hasn’t happened since they put it up (on the website) last February. They keep telling me it will be changed, and I keep asking them when. And all I get back is that it will be updated by (this coming) February.”

According to Fitzgerald, there are some aspects for which the wording is conclusive, and for which she doesn’t expect much to change before February, 2020:

  • Transport time, she noted, is listed in the regulation as 28 hours. But it’s not actually time on the truck, or time from first pig loaded to last pig unloaded. It’s time without feed and time without water. So, for most producers and livestock haulers, the time without feed is going to be the limiting factor. The owner has to give a declaration to the trucker regarding when they were last fed.
  • Under the amendments, if a truck is going to stop to provide food and water to the livestock, all animals need to be able to lie down. “You’re going to be loading pretty light to do that,” Fitzgerald advised. Shorter distance transport won’t require that all can lie down.
  • Everyone involved will need training. Livestock haulers will need to carry proof, but farm workers will have to be trained.
  • Transfer of responsibility documentation will be required at each step of the process, in written form. This can be as simple as a text or email, but Fitzgerald said to be aware, however, that when you accept that transfer of responsibility, you are effectively signing off that the animals all arrived in good shape. If you send a text before looking at all the animals and then find some lame animals later, it’s too late to question the trucker or source farm. The animals are now your responsibility.

UPDATE: The article was corrected to indicate that if animals needed to stop for rest during transportation they all need room to lie down. Regular trucking of animals does not include that requirement.

About the author

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Stew Slater operates a small dairy farm on 150 acres near St. Marys, Ont., and has been writing about rural and agricultural issues since 1999.

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