On May 15th and 16th I took part in the Beef Feedlot Welfare Auditor Training in Lethbridge, AB. However, the training started before that with two prerequisite online courses. First, we were required to take Beef Feedlot 201. The course ensures that the training participants are familiar with the feedlot industry. Everything from where the cattle originate, how they are transported, to how the feed is stored. Additionally, participants were required to take the NCFA eLearning course, which serves as training for processors for the Canadian Feedlot Animal Care Assessment Program.
There are three beef feedlot welfare audits commonly used in North America: 1) Canadian Feedlot Animal Care Assessment Program, 2) Beef Quality Assurance (BQA) Feedyard Assessment, and 3) Texas Cattle Feeders Association (BQA) Assessment. However, companies can have their own audits of feedlots, and they may use one of the previously listed audits as a basis for their own. The training I received taught us how to audit a feedlot using any assessment tool.
On the first day of the training we were introduced to the Professional Animal Auditor Certification Organization (PAACO). They are the organization that is responsible for providing training and certification for all animal welfare auditors and they certify animal welfare audits.
There are three types of audits:
- 1st party – self-assessments or internal audits. i.e. when a feedlot assesses itself.
- 2nd party – consultant or someone with a connection or direct business relationship conducts the audit e.g. the feedlot’s veterinarian
- 3rd party – these are used to avoid conflicts of interest, objectively gather information, and not to advise the feedlot or correct their practices
We went through audit modules that described specific sections of an audit, including terminology and specific measurements (each audit may vary in these measurements). These modules included:
- Feedlot commitment, sampling and scoring
- Cattle handling
- Animal health
- Egregious acts of neglect or abuse
- Transportation of cattle
Audits have a scoring system and a passing score must be achieved, but there are three ways a feedlot can immediately fail. These include: 1) unwillingness to participate in the audit, 2) willful acts of abuse or egregious acts of neglect, and 3) ineffective euthanasia.
On the second day we took everything we learned into the field and practiced auditing. At one feedlot we observed loading and unloading and assessed their facilities. At another feedlot we practiced sampling pens, observing cattle in these pens, checking documents, and observed cattle handing. Thank you to the feedlots for welcoming us!
Afterwards, we completed an exam that takes about one to two hours to complete. If you pass the exam and want to become a PAACO certified auditor, you must shadow at least two audits with a certified auditor within a year of your training. During these shadowed audits you can either audit yourself, observe, or a combination of the two.
I was impressed by the attention to detail involved in the training, both in the classroom and in the field. I hope to find out if I passed soon and then will start shadowing!