Improving farm safety and animal health, and reducing antibiotic use form part of new Farm Quality Assurance rules set to come into place on June 1.

It comes after an intense review process studying the new Northern Ireland Beef and Lamb Farm Quality Assurance Scheme (FQAS) standard and rules.

The changes

The new FQAS standard was developed by the Livestock and Meat Commission for Northern Ireland (LMC) under the guidance of a standard setting committee made up of stakeholders.

Many of the 2018 changes bring FQAS in line with changes made to the Red Tractor scheme. The changes include:

  • Increased focus on calf welfare – checks on housed calves and colostrum intake;
  • New Animal Health Plan template – new format to encourage planned animal-related health activities throughout the year and optional template to record significant health issues and mortality on farm;
  • Consideration of antibiotic use and trying to reduce where possible – farmers are encouraged to speak with their vet before using third and fourth generation highest priority critically important antibiotics;
  • Veterinary Medicine Record – date withdrawal period ends and reason for treatment must now be recorded;
  • The Campaign for Responsible Rodenticide Use has led an industry initiative over the last number of years to reduce the use of second-generation rodenticides. As an assurance scheme member, rodenticides can continue to be purchased if participants can demonstrate responsible use through compliance with Standard 3.19;
  • Soil analysis is required to identify crop requirement if using phosphorus fertiliser;
  • If importing or exporting slurry then records must be kept;
  • Legislation now requires that anyone spraying Plant Protection Products (PPPs) such as pesticides must have a Certificate of Competence and equipment test certificates are required at specified frequencies;
  • FQAS is an affiliate member of the Farm Safety Partnership – therefore awareness of the farm safety elements within the standard is required.

‘A comprehensive process’

The FQAS standard is reviewed every three years by a standard setting committee made up of various stakeholders including:

  • Ulster Farmers’ Union;
  • Northern Ireland Meat Exporters Association;
  • National Sheep Association;
  • National Beef Association;
  • Northern Ireland Agricultural Producers’ Association
  • The Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs.

Speaking about the recent changes, Gillian Davis, LMC FQAS manager, said: “The review itself was a very comprehensive process as it scrutinised every aspect of the FQAS standard and rules.

This should be seen as a positive action by local producers, as the review is undertaken to ensure that their businesses are operating to the highest possible standards.

“It’s also worth noting that the changes to the new FQAS standard are made in line with legislative requirements and are to ensure equivalence with other devolved assurance schemes like Red Tractor Assurance in Great Britain.”

“As always if anyone is in need of assistance, there is a support system in place. LMC’s farm liaison officer, Terry White, can be contacted for assistance via the FQAS helpline or at one of the regular mart clinics we operate.”