RECOMMENDED CODE OF PRACTICE FOR THE CARE
AND HANDLING OF FARM ANIMALS
THE CODES OF PRACTICE:
The Codes of Practice are nationally
developed guidelines for the care and handling of different species of farm animals. Codes
are not intended to be used as production manuals; instead, the Codes are designed to be
used as an educational tool in the promotion of acceptable management and welfare
practices. The Codes contain recommendations to assist farmers and others in the
agriculture and food sector to compare and improve their own management practices.
THE RECOMMENDED CODE FOR FARMED DEER:
The Canadian deer industry recognizes the
need for a national Code of Practice which addresses issues of animal welfare in balance
with normal management practices. This Code was initiated by the deer industry with a
review of Codes of Practice and publications from a variety of Canadian and international
sources. The Canadian Federation of Humane Societies and Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada
were then approached by the Canadian Venison Council and a Review Committee was selected
to provide further input and develop the code.
Deer, including wapiti (North American
elk), have been raised commercially in Canada for over 25 years. Historically, this has
been on a small scale. However, the industry has grown significantly in the last decade as
farmers seek new, economically viable and environmentally sustainable alternatives to
Species and numbers of farmed deer vary
from province to province. Wapiti, red deer and fallow deer are currently considered most
adaptable to farming in the Canadian environment. Deer are farmed principally for the sale
of live animals, venison (meat) and velvet antler. Deer are adapted behaviourally and
physiologically to regional environments. Temperate and arctic species have strong annual
cycles of reproduction and metabolism which are synchronized by photoperiod (day length).
These adaptations allow deer to survive winter hardships and capitalize on the brief pulse
of vegetation growth.
This factsheet only highlights a small
amount of the
information found in the complete Recommended Code of
Practice for farmed deer.
A copy of the complete recommended Code of
be obtained from your local commodity organization or
provincial agricultural office.
HIGHLIGHTS FROM THE RECOMMENDED CODE OF
PRACTICE FOR THE CARE AND HANDLING OF FARMED DEER:
SECTION 2: PRODUCERS
Producer's skills and responsibilities:
- Persons working with deer must understand
and accept responsibility for the welfare of deer under their care. Employers have an
obligation to train employees properly on humane handling, equipment use and livestock
care and to ensure that employees follow those principles at all times.
- Prior to assignment of duties, personnel
must be adequately instructed on the basic seasonal needs of the deer under their care
according to species, gender and age. A working knowledge of the behaviour of deer
combined with adequate facilities are necessary to ensure safe handling.
SECTION 3 : ANIMAL CONSIDERATIONS
- Feeds used for conventional ruminant
livestock are generally suitable for red deer, wapiti and fallow deer. Moose, reindeer,
white-tailed and mule deer may require specialized diets. Deer may have different
requirements for minerals such as copper, selenium or cobalt than those of sheep and
cattle. These requirements may differ among deer species.
- Deer decrease food intake and metabolic
activity during winter and should be in good condition before winter. Good quality
balanced rations (grains, pellets or stored forage) should be provided during the winter.
As intake declines, demands for high-energy feeds increase. Conversely, there are dangers
- When feeding baled forage, twine and wrap
must be removed to avoid illness or death from ingestion or injury from entanglement.
- Deer are typically raised outdoors on
native or seeded pastures.
- Animals on pasture must have access to a
sufficient quantity and quality of feed and water. Required salt and minerals should be
- Animals on pasture should have access to
natural or artificial shelters for protection against adverse weather conditions.
- Deer should be handled quietly, with care
and patience. Familiarization of deer with handling facilities and management routine from
an early age reduces apprehension.
- Many issues are related to the use of dogs
to control deer. Deer that are unfamiliar with dogs may stampede into fences. Wapiti and
even red deer can be dangerous to dogs. Although dogs may protect smaller deer such as
fallow deer from predation, habituation of deer may reduce their natural wariness and
aggressiveness against predators. If used, a dog must be well trained and experienced with
deer and kept under strict control.
- Disturbance of breeding groups during the
rut should be minimized.
- Males of larger subspecies and hybrids
should not be bred to females which are significantly smaller and which have not
successfully reared at least one offspring.
- Females should be fed so that they are in
optimal body condition just before breeding. Dietary demands are generally low during
early pregnancy but increase significantly in the last stages of gestation and almost
double during lactation.
Natural Mating Systems
Wapiti, red deer and fallow deer use a harem mating system in which dominant males control
groups of several to over 20 females. In some situations, fallow deer may use a lek system
- males compete on a central display arena. In the wild, moose, white-tailed deer and mule
deer males rove widely during the rut, tending and breeding females in sequence.
Delivery and neonatal care:
- Pregnant animals should be familiarized
with their birthing areas several weeks prior to delivery. Pastures should be well
supplied with quality forage, water and shelter from intense sunlight and inclement
weather. Birthing areas should be away from potential disturbances but close to
facilities. Unobtrusive surveillance should be made several times daily by a familiar
- A dam that has been assisted or disturbed
during birth may abandon her new-born. A contingency plan for artificial rearing must be
- Newborns must consume colostrum within 12
hours to obtain nutrients and antibodies which are critical for survival. Hand-reared
young should have access to palatable feed, fresh roughage and clean fresh water.
Herd Health Care:
- Animals and facilities should be inspected
- A comprehensive herd-health program should
be developed in consultation with a veterinarian.
- Injured and sick animals should be treated
promptly, or if untreatable, humanely destroyed.
SECTION 5 : TRANSPORTATION
- Persons handling or transporting deer
should be properly instructed and knowledgeable about deer behaviour and welfare and must
comply with the regulations of the Health of Animals Act.
All codes are presently developed by a
review committee made up of representatives from farm groups, animal welfare groups,
veterinarians, animal scientists, federal and provincial governments, related agricultural
sectors and interested individuals. The following are some of the individuals that
provided input at various stages in the drafting of this code.
- Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada
- Canadian Council on Animal Care
- Canadian Federation of Humane Societies
- Canadian Meat Council
- Canadian Veterinary Medical Association
- Canadian Venison Council
- University of Alberta
In 1995, the Canadian Agri-Food Research
Council (CARC) and its Canada Committee on Animals and its Expert Committee on Farm Animal
Welfare and Behaviour, took the lead, along with the Canadian Federation of Humane
Societies in updating existing codes and developing new commodity codes.
Further information on the process of Code
Development can be obtained from the Canadian Agri-Food Research Council (CARC), Building
No. 60, Heritage House, Central Experimental Farm, Ottawa, Ontario K1A 0C6
Request for copies of the Codes can be
addressed to the national commodity group and/or specific provincial organizations.
This factsheet was prepared by Penny
Lawlis, Animal Care Inspector, Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs and
reviewed by the Code of Practice Committee. This factsheet has been printed and
distributed with the financial support of your provincial agricultural ministry.
Since January 17, 2002