Red Tractor has announced that they will be rolling out a new “risk based” inspection regime for dairy farmers from 1 April 2019.
Already trialled and implemented in the pig sector, the new regime is part of a strategy aimed at increasing consumer confidence and protecting the reputation of Red Tractor and British farming.
The new inspections will be based on audit outcomes from April 1 onwards, not on previous performance. While Red Tractor will not be sharing how each standard is weighted, it is understood that breaches to health and welfare standards will be categorised higher than non-compliances relating to paperwork for instance.
For most members the NFU has been assured that there will be no noticeable change; a routine inspection will take place and reported back to Red Tractor by the certification body. However, a minority of farms which, when looking at previous audits, would have been deemed “high risk” under the new regime can expect more frequent and unannounced inspections.
If a farm is deemed high risk an additional unannounced inspection will be triggered at the farmer’s cost and they will be notified by their certification body.
The inspection will take the form of a spot check and no notice will be given to the farm. To avoid logistical and practical issues, members who require an unannounced visit will be asked to provide information including contact telephone numbers, milking times and biosecurity requirements.
If improvements can be demonstrated, members are no longer categorised as higher risk and will be informed by their certification body and return to normal inspection frequency, although possibly at shorter notice. If no improvement has been made, membership will be suspended.
As with traditional inspections, farmers do have the right to appeal their inspection outcome with Red Tractor directly. Find out more about the Red Tractor Appeals Procedure here
NFU national dairy board chairman Michael Oakes said: “This new regime is not targeted at the majority of dairy farmers who work to consistently high health and welfare standards but is aimed at the small percentage who pose a risk to the credibility of the Red Tractor Scheme and our industry as a whole.
"As we leave Europe it is more important than ever that we have an assurance scheme that both the public and farmers can get behind and trust. However, there should also be earned recognition for those who consistently perform well and have a very low risk rating."