Red Tractor – find out how audit cycles have changed

20 February 2023

An image of NFU Poultry Board member Jonty Hay

NFU representative on the Red Tractor Poultry Board, Jonty Hay of Hay Farms, shares his thoughts on the recently announced Red Tractor audit cycle changes.

Red Tractor has decided to review the frequency of audit assessments for the poultry sector. It is proposing to increase assessments from once every 12 months to once every 9 months.

This is due to the disruption of on-farm audits from the unprecedented outbreak of AI (Avian Influenza) and the backlog of inspections that was created by the Covid-19 pandemic.

Interim measure

Jonty Hay described how the Red Tractor Poultry Board has “been discussing the difficulties of the AI season and its extensive concentration on biosecurity” with “many possible solutions discussed during the past 18 months”.

“An overhaul was, and still is, required,” Jonty confirmed.

“The 9 month cycle has been proposed as an interim measure due to the 30% of farms that have had two or more remote audits, which could leave the scheme open to potential criticism from others that may not understand the financial risk and mental distress that comes if the farm gets confirmed with AI.”  

Keep biosecurity at the highest level

Jonty adds: “The most important thing for poultry growers is to keep your biosecurity to the highest level, including on non-essential visitors, which in my opinion includes anyone whose presence on farm is not compulsory to the health and welfare of those animals, which must be our primary consideration.

“However, we cannot have a third of the growing base being stuck with remote audits only. The 9 month frequency allows movement of the assessment cycle to get these farms to a time of year to allow an on-farm audit at a lower risk period and allow time for the scheme to come up with a robust and UKAS-approved audit system considering the AI restriction requirements.”

Looking to the future

“Moving forward, we all need to be flexible (Red Tractor, auditors and farmers) to get through a period of unprecedented challenges, whether it be AI, Covid or pure time pressures,” Jonty continued.

“Communication is key, so speak with your certification body to make a plan, especially if you have had two or more remote audits.”

Looking ahead, Jonty believes there should be scope in the future for earned recognition along with the risk-based analysis, but combined with guidance and help for those who struggle with the ever-growing burden of paperwork.

He adds: “After all, as farmers all we want to do is grow the birds in the best way possible and keep them safe.”

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