Red Tractor revises its standards after member feedback

The food assurance scheme has outlined what is changing in its revised farm standards from November after listening to industry feedback.

Red Tractor in field

This year for the first time in its history, Red Tractor opened the process to its 46,000 members and the entire food supply chain, making it the scheme’s largest and most transparent consultation ever.

Over 3,000 pieces of feedback were passed to technical advisory committees and sectors boards for consensus, before being agreed by the main Red Tractor board. This helped inform the approach of the new standards and saw certain proposals dropped, while others were simplified and clarified.

Some new standards have been added because of legislation change, such as an amendment to vermin control standards to comply with food safety law, or industry commitments to improving animal welfare, including the wider dairy sector’s pledge to eliminate the routine euthanasia of calves by 2023.

Red Tractor’s CEO Jim Moseley said: “We set out to hear from all stakeholders and to engage as much of the farming community as possible, and I’m delighted by the amount of feedback that was generated by the review. This has been enormously helpful for informing the work to finalise the new version of the standards.”

Various farming bodies shared their feedback and concerns. Stuart Roberts, NFU deputy president, said: “It has never been more important for British agriculture to be in tune with the public. Following feedback from the NFU and farmer and grower licensees, Red Tractor has developed the right standards to progress our industry, while balancing the needs of farmers with the evolving demands of shoppers and the supply chain.”

The changes in each sector for farmers to be aware of are:

Combinable Crops & Sugar Beet

• REMOVED A requirement to leave livestock buildings for five weeks between cleaning them and using them to store grain.

• SIMPLIFIED Grain trailer ID needs to be clearly identifiable and on at least the rear and one side of the trailer, rather than all three sides as currently required. Trailer ID is only necessary when transporting your grain into a third-party intake.

• NEW All farms with workers must have a written Health and Safety policy – this is a slight advance on the legal baseline which only applies to businesses with more than five employees. Given high fatality figures in the industry Red Tractor believes it is essential to check policies are in place and communicated to workers.

• REVISED Many of the requirements of vermin control standards align with the Campaign for Responsible Rodenticide Use (CRRU) Code of Practice which aims to minimise the exposure of wildlife to toxic rodenticides. This means that Red Tractor members can continue to buy rodenticide that they would otherwise be prohibited from purchasing without completing additional training.

• CLARIFIED Moisture meter calibration can be carried out on farm using reference samples.

Beef & Lamb

• NEW Following recommendations from the Farm Animal Welfare Council and European Food Safety Authority (EFSA), tethered housing systems, for stock of any age, will not be permitted on Red Tractor Farms. In the short term, derogations will be offered, and visits will be made to the small number of members still tethering their cattle.

• NEW Farms will be asked how they are taking action to eradicate bovine viral diarrhoea (BVD). This needs to be documented in a health plan and implemented. This new recommendation will become a full standard from October 2022, allowing members a lead time for a change in system or testing routine, where necessary to control endemic disease.

• NEW All farms with workers must have a written Health and Safety policy – this is a slight advance on the legal baseline which only applies to businesses with more than five employees. Given high fatality figures in the industry Red Tractor believes it is essential to check policies are in place and communicated to workers.

• NEW Efficient and meaningful health planning builds on management techniques for continuous improvement and encourages a move to a proactive management system. The health plan now needs to be signed, dated and reviewed annually by a nominated vet who should visit the farm at least once a year.

• UPGRADED At least one person on farm must have undertaken medicine training to help raise awareness of antimicrobial resistance and drive medicine use best practice. This is currently a recommendation and follows similar change to Dairy sector in 2019. Dairy

• NEW Following recommendations from the Farm Animal Welfare Council and European Food Safety Authority (EFSA), tethered housing systems, for stock of any age, will not be permitted on Red Tractor Farms. In the short term, derogations will be offered, and visits will be made to the small number of members still tethering their cattle.

• NEW In 2020 Red Tractor consulted on proposed standards to ensure the industry delivers on a commitment to eliminate the routine euthanasia of calves by 2023. A new standard is focused on a written breeding and management policy.

• NEW Efficient and meaningful health planning encourages a move to a proactive management system. A health plan now needs to be signed, dated and reviewed annually by a nominated vet, who should visit the farm at least once a year.

• NEW All farms with workers must have a written Health and Safety policy – this is a slight advance on the legal baseline which only applies to businesses with more than five employees. Given high fatality figures in the industry Red Tractor believes it is essential to check policies are in place and communicated to workers. Fresh Produce

• REVISED Strengthened and upgraded approach to field/production site risk assessment to better manage risks from historic and adjacent activities.

• NEW Protected Cropping section introduced with content relevant to established, protected growing environments (e.g. greenhouse) and new crop production systems (e.g. vertical farms).

• REVISED Strengthened and consistent expectations for pesticide residue testing.

• NEW Record keeping systems for introduction of biological controls.

Pigs

• NEW All units must put measures in place to minimise the risk of tail biting and avoid the need for tail docking. This includes an annual risk assessment on all units and an action plan on farms rearing docked pigs. Anyone carrying out docking needs to have evidence to support the continued need, including a detailed quarterly veterinary review. Monitoring health and performance is key to ensuring oversight of pig health and welfare.

• UPGRADED Our enrichment standard, in line with Defra’s Code of Practice, to require specific combinations of enrichment materials and objects, to ensure this important behavioural need of pigs is met.

• REVISED Stock people need to be robustly trained on pig euthanasia to ensure best practice is maintained. Initial euthanasia training must now be carried out by a vet or via a Humane Slaughter Association course. Where a mechanical device is used for piglet euthanasia, we have aligned our requirements with the Humane Slaughter Association’s guidance to ensure effectiveness.

• NEW Anyone involved with the care of pigs must now complete online pig welfare training in key areas including best practice around moving and handling pigs to ensure consistent training so that all pigs are always treated compassionately.

• NEW At least one person on every farm must undertake training in the responsible use of medicines. Where a farm is identified as persistently using high amounts of antibiotics, they must now develop and implement an action plan with their vet to reduce antibiotic use.

• NEW When there is an outbreak of disease, it can be useful if nearby farms are made aware so they can tighten their biosecurity. To facilitate this, members must sign up to the Significant Diseases Charter and report disease outbreaks.

• NEW All farms with workers must have a written Health and Safety policy – this is a slight advance on the legal baseline which only applies to businesses with more than five employees. Given high fatality figures in the industry Red Tractor believes it is essential to check policies are in place and communicated to workers.

Chicken

• REVISED Updating our standards with best practice, on all grower unit’s, enrichment now needs to be provided and evenly placed in the shed by day 3 at the latest rather than day 7 as currently.

• REVISED The free range and enhanced welfare standards require only slower-growing breeds – the list of acceptable breeds has been updated in line with current research. This means we can give a guarantee to consumers that only slower growing breeds are used in our free-range standards as their growth rates are better suited to this production system.

• REVISED To meet customer and consumer expectations, all broiler, poussin, and free range units must meet the minimum standard of windows at 3% of the floor area by October 2023.

• UPGRADED A heat stress policy must be demonstrably implemented on the farm. Heat stress continues to have a significant impact on bird mortality.

• NEW All farms with workers must also have a written Health and Safety policy – this is a slight advance on the legal baseline which only applies to businesses with more than five employees. Given high fatality figures in agriculture Red Tractor believes it is essential to check are in place and communicated to workers.

• NEW There are a number of changes for hatchery eggs to align with turkeys and ducks, including fumigating and sanitising eggs prior to setting, temperature and humidity-controlled storage rooms and records of checks, improved egg traceability and transport of eggs and chicks.

• UPGRADED We are strengthening our standards on Mycoplasma testing for breeder layers. Testing is in line with the Poultry Health Scheme requirements, testing records for Mycoplasma gallisepticum and Mycoplasma synoviae must be retained to ensure bird welfare and the prevention of disease.

• NEW The turnaround times between flocks on farm must now be no less than 5 calendar days. This will ensure that farms have enough time between flocks to clean and disinfect houses between new flocks arriving.

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