This article is part four of six in a series discussing Certified Farm Animal Welfare Audits presented by Michigan State University Extension. This article will discuss some different ways to prepare yourself and your farm for a Certified Animal Welfare audit.
After you’ve selected the certified audit that is right for your farm, (see Part 3 in this series for a list of some of the certified programs), the next step is to contact that certifying entity (the company that provides the certification) and begin the discussion with them regarding when you will have your farm audit. Most auditing firms have a clear understanding when producers are busy with planting and harvesting and will make reasonable accommodations to schedule the audit at appropriate times. Once you sign a contract and commit to an audit, a copy of the audit and sometimes a guidebook for further explanation will be sent to you.
When you get your copy of the audit – review it in detail. Make notes regarding what is done, what needs to be done, and what needs further clarification. Figure out a system that works for you, some examples of what might work;
Use a different colored highlighter to indicate those items that are compliant, those that need to be corrected and those that require further investigation
Retype the audit into an excel spreadsheet, with one column containing the audit question or requirement, in the next column make notes of where it would be found (Farm Management plan, Gate Score sheet, employee training records, etc.) and the last column, indicate if you fulfill all of the requirements of that particular line item.
Be sure you review all of your records. For example, when the audit requirement is for training records of your employees, make sure you have available for the auditor the content of the training the employees received, and that all of your employees have a training record – points will be deducted if you have not trained all employees under the required area. Another example is that if the audit states that the Farm Management Plan needs to be reviewed annually, points would be deducted if the date on your plan is 2011, even if you say you reviewed the plan prior to the audit, the only proof you will have that it has been done is to change the date – which may be the only change made to the plan.
When a line item on the audit is referring to your facilities, actually go out and look at your barn, outdoor areas or any other places stated in the audit. You are likely to find things that need to be fixed, moved or removed from an area that you wouldn’t have noticed if you were trying to review the areas from memory in your office.
If you need help regarding an audit item, contacting the company that will be conducting the audit is a great place to start. They are very helpful and should have no problem providing clarification. You can also contact Michigan State University Extension under the ‘Ask an Expert’ section for assistance as well.