Spreading the message on quality and safety
The revamped Bord Bia QA scheme is giving farmers breathing space on audit issues, writes
E need to sell our story — we have a great one to tell,” said Maura McCarthy on the success of farming in Ireland as she addressed some 500 people who attended the Bord Bia farm walk on Harry and Amanda Murphy’s holding near Ferns, Co Wexford last week.
A farmer and an auditor working on behalf of Bord Bia, Ms McCarthy was on hand to outline some of the important changes to the Sustainable Beef and Lamb Assurance Scheme implemented on April 24 of this year.
The scheme was one of several topics discussed during the day which also included areas of farm safety, licensing laws on the road, and health and mental well-being of the farmer.
The newly-revamped Beef and Lamb Assurance Scheme was of particular interest to farmers who have greatly welcomed the new close-out model whereby they are now given 30 days to address issues raised during an audit.
Previously farmers were expelled from the scheme for six months, but this new initiative now mirrors that available for the Sustainable Dairy Assurance Scheme (SDAS).
It is deemed a fairer way of giving farmers an opportunity to rectify some of the smaller issues that arise during the audit of approximately 23,000 farms inspected annually by Capita Customer Solutions on behalf of Bord Bia.
Some 7,700 farms have been subjected to audits since the new changes came into operation. Of those, a mere 10pc received a mark less than 60pc and were found to be non-compliant.
“Some of those chose not to process but if you do not pass on the first go, you now have 30 days for a re-audit. This might mean something as simple as providing photographic evidence of a PTO cover, or something similar,” Ms McCarthy said.
Records show that the three key areas where people run into trouble most often are Health and Safety, Remedies and Pollution.
The importance of keeping accurate records for animal remedy purchases and usage was discussed in detail by auditor Kevin Humphries who said that it is one area where many farmers fall down during an audit.
“It is a legal requirement for the Department so what we are asking you to do is nothing new,” he said.
Mr Humphries used examples whereby incomplete or inaccurate purchase records will automatically raise alarm bells with auditors.
“Nobody can argue with a prescription from the vet, but in some cases if we see discrepancies over quantities, that is a worry.”
Farmers are also advised to make sure their usage records are accurate and up-to-date. “If there is only one or two details missing that can be rectified, but if there is a lot of information missing, that would be deemed as a major non-compliance.”
“In the case of withdrawal periods, farmers need to be fully aware of these according to the medications used.”
“With regards to the storage of medicines and vaccinations, all must be locked safely in one room,” he concluded.
Other new changes to the Sustainable Beef and Lamb Assurance Scheme include an updated section on Pesticides and the Farm Sustainability Survey available to current and new members.
“If this is filled out in advance it will shorten your audit by 20 minutes, so it is in your own interest that it is done,” Ms McCarthy said.
“The scheme is there for everyone and all the information is readily available, so be sure to check that everything is in order. Don’t call us when the cattle or sheep are going up the line — it will be too late,” she concluded.
Auditor Kevin Humphries speaking at the Bord Bia assurance event in Ferns