By Michelle Panko PAg, Programs Information Specialist, Programs Branch; and Natasha Wilkie PAg, Livestock and Feed Extension Specialist, Regional Services Branch
Livestock veterinary assessments provide plenty of benefits, including improved animal health, improved biosecurity practices and access to funding under the Assurance Systems Producer Rebate Program.
Brandon and Marcy Duncan, who ranch with their children near Crane Valley, Sask., are gaining insight into these benefits. Prior to their veterinary assessment, they attended a Verified Beef Production Plus (VBP+) training workshop, the first step in accessing the Producer Rebate Program. There they learned about the opportunity to prove to consumers and retailers that cattle operations are adhering to the highest standards for food safety, biosecurity, animal care and environmental stewardship. After completing the training, they contacted their vet to complete the second step toward accessing the program: completing the veterinary assessment. This is an individualized plan that outlines any steps they need to take to improve both biosecurity and animal care on their ranch. Once the steps are outlined, they can access funding to help implement the necessary improvements.
Marcy recognizes program funding is a great motivator, but also says that there are other benefits of having a veterinarian complete an assessment on a ranch. The Duncans are a young family who are passionate about involving their children in their ranching operation and looking after their land and animals, with a goal of continuous improvement and high standards for food safety, biosecurity, animal care and environmental stewardship. Having a relationship with a veterinarian who knows the family and provides advice and recommendations for their livestock and facilities is one step in the right direction.
In October 2019, the couple worked with their local veterinarian, Dr. Danni Whitehead of the Moose Jaw Animal Clinic, on their veterinary assessment. Dr. Whitehead explained that for some producers, the assessment helps support a Veterinarian-Client-Patient-Relationship, which is a working connection or interaction between veterinarians, producers and their animals. Assessments also provide an opportunity and the dedicated time for vets to focus on education and increasing producer knowledge. Not every producer is aware of National Biosecurity Standards and the Codes of Practice, for example. Dr. Whitehead indicated that a veterinarian assessment will allow vets to "act as an interpreter," have discussions with producers, and make recommendations on what is relevant for their specific operation to improve overall herd health, animal welfare and biosecurity.
The Assurance Systems Producer Rebate Program is part of a suite of programs available under the Canadian Agricultural Partnership, a $388-million investment by federal and provincial governments in strategic initiatives for the Ministry of Agriculture. Funding received through the program can be used to purchase livestock handling equipment that improves animal welfare and biosecurity. For more information, visit saskatchewan.ca/CAP or call toll-free 1-866-457-2377.
This article was originally published in Agriview.