Red Tractor is increasing the number of unannounced inspections on farms that fall short of its standards, using a new risk-based inspection regime which will start in November 2018.

Currently 60,000 farmers face annual inspections and the data collected will be used to place underperforming farms under more scrutiny.

From 2019, it will also be introducing optional modular standards to allow farmers to access more markets and appeal to different customers.

Red Tractor chief executive Jim Moseley outlines what the changes will mean for livestock producers.

Why is Red Tractor increasing unannounced inspections?

Increasing confidence in Red Tractor and the entire UK food industry is vital, particularly as we approach Brexit.

We believe the changes are a vital component in maintaining the trust of consumers and promoting the high standards of UK farming and food production and improving the integrity of the scheme.

It’s important for farmers to understand that it is only poor-performing farms that will experience a change in inspection regime. The vast majority will not be affected.

We know 99.5% of our members already do a great job – and this must continue with compliance 365 days of the year – but our announcement is about protecting the reputation of the scheme and British farming as a whole.

Why are you introducing modular standards and what do they mean?

Red Tractor also has to keep evolving to harness consumer confidence and grow the breadth of what it offers farmers.

Modular standards to recognise farmers who, for example, put more emphasis on animal welfare or the environment, allows them to access more markets and appeal to different customers.

Core Red Tractor standards will continue to remain at the heart of Red Tractor and meet the requirements of the majority of customers and consumers.

But optional modular standards will be available which could cover areas such as organic, environmentally sustainable production or enriched animal welfare and will be launched with a consumer-facing labelling system to improve clarity for shoppers.

What will the new modular standards look like for livestock farmers?

We are still working on the details which will be shared in 2019. As we do with the development of our standards, we will consult and discuss our plans with the entire food chain.

We have already started an international benchmarking exercise of global assurance schemes.

We will commission some bespoke research to help inform the content of the modules and how we present to consumers in the form of a logo.

We are also in discussion with other schemes to see if and how we can collaborate to deliver consumer choice but in a more effective way. If for whatever reason we are unable to collaborate, then we will deliver this ourselves.

What help will be offered to farmers to aid their compliance with the new standards?

As with the current scheme standards we offer manuals, templates and checklists to help our members with the administration of their farm assurance.

These can be found on the Red Tractor website.

We are continuing to look at any opportunity to use technology to simplify the recording or submission of records relating to farm assurance.

Will farmers in the devolved regions see regional differences in the standards?

We have a good relationship with the schemes in the devolved regions which we recognise as equivalent schemes and we will continue to work together with them to see how modular standards can be delivered once they have been developed.

How will you be targeting which farms to inspect?

A new risk-based approach will be adopted. This is an internal system which uses the nature and number of non-conformances to categorise each member according to reputational risk.

All standards have been weighted according to reputational risk. For example, the standard requiring livestock to be handled in a way that avoids injury and minimises stress has been given greater weighting than having a farm map.

If, after the result of an inspection, a member is classified by Red Tractor as higher risk, an additional, unannounced inspection will be triggered at the farmer’s cost and they will be notified by their certification body.

How many unannounced inspections do you plan on doing a year?

It is impossible to say because unannounced inspections will be focused on farms that the new system flags up as having not met our standards at the time of inspection or “at risk” of breaching them.

How are the inspections tougher?

It is not the inspections that are tougher. The inspection regime will be tougher on poor-performing farms.

Common areas where livestock farmers fail in an inspection

Beef and lamb

Medicine records – need to be accurate and include the reason for treatment as well as the date of withdrawal. Records should be kept for five years.

Health and performance details – keep up to date. A record of the reason for culling or death is often overlooked.

Key contacts – a simple but vital requirement is that details of who to contact in an emergency are up to date and accessible to staff.

Dairy

Herd health and performance records – information needs to be collected on issues such as lameness and mastitis as wells as any medicines used. Records need to be signed by a vet.

Manure management plans – stock farms must have a map of where manure can be spread and when.

Milk cooling and storage – maintenance plans or receipts for work carried out need to be kept.

Pigs

Veterinary health plans – must be reviewed by a vet quarterly. For new sites these should be sent to your certification body within 28 days of the vet’s visit.

Antibiotic use – collate annual usage, including in-feed medication, and review with your vet.

Dead bins – it’s imperative that these are locked and vermin proof to reduce risk of disease spread.

Poultry

British Poultry Training, Poultry Passport or Poultry Training Scheme records – print these out and have them accessible before an assessment visit.

Site visitors – complete and record data on all visitors and keep a record of names, dates, times and contact details.

Ventilation – keep a record of ventilation and record ammonia and carbon dioxide levels.

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