Some of the key areas that commonly arise for farmers in the Bord Bia audit include medicine usage and purchase records, farm safety risk assessments, and water tests.
Below is an outline and series of steps that will get the farm ready for the inspection or audit.
What happens if I am found non-compliant?
Minor non-compliances are, as the name suggests, small faults that can be found in the inspection but the inspection will still pass, provided the score is above 60%. However, these issues must be dealt with before the next audit.
Major non-compliances must be corrected in the time agreed with the auditor. This is known as the close-out period and is typically 30 days from the date of the audit, but extensions can be granted depending on circumstances.
The most common reason for beef, sheep and dairy members being non-compliant during their audit relates to the recording of animal remedy usage.
Having no records of remedy usage is a major non-compliance; an incomplete register of remedy usage is considered a minor non-compliance.
What farmers need to record
Animal remedy usage can be recorded in any one of the following formats:
For animal remedy usage records, you must record the following:
Where an individual animal is treated, the identity of the animal must be clearly documented, for example using the tag number or freeze brand.
Where the remedy is administered to a group of animals, it must be possible to clearly identify each animal in the group from the relevant herd register (eg all calves born from 1 January to 31 March only, or “all replacement weanling heifers”).
Animal remedy purchases
Not having animal remedy purchase records (either no records or incomplete records) is another common non-compliance among beef and sheep farmers.
Purchase records should be kept by either using computer-based records, a manual such the Bord Bia Farm Book, or by retaining vet’s prescriptions for the previous six months.
The following details must be included:
The auditor will need to see two pages of the most recent animal remedies both bought and used.
If using a computer package, then the equivalent of two pages will need to be provided.
Records should also correspond to some degree with what is stored in your medicine cabinet.
Another common reason for beef and sheep members being non-compliant is due to not having a completed or up-to-date farm safety risk assessment FSRA.
Also, where there are three or more employees on the farm, members must have an up-to-date farm safety statement (FSS).
Having a complete FSRA/FSS is a legal requirement, aimed at reducing the risk of injury or ill health for all who work on the farm, or who are affected by the work.
The FSRA form can be downloaded and printed from the Health and Safety Authority website.
The form can also be completed online at www.farmsafely.com.
Dairy farmers who use water from a private well for dairy washing must have evidence of a water test report for microbiological contamination. This is the second most common non-compliance among dairy farmers.
Enterococci and E coli must be absent in 100ml and the test must have been conducted in the last three years.
Farmers using water from a group water scheme do not require a test report.
The third most common major non-compliance among dairy farmers is an absence of potable water for hand washing and washing milk contact surfaces. This must be readily available for optimum hygiene and milk quality.
In line with the new public health measures announced by the Government in April, Bord Bia physical on-farm audits can recommence on 17 May.
Members of the Sustainable Assurance Schemes for Beef, Lamb and Dairy will now have the option of either an on-farm audit or a remote audit, whichever they are most comfortable with.
Both on-farm and remote audits carry a maximum certification period of 18 months.
Where possible, remote audits are preferable to minimise risk.
Farmers with an upcoming audit will be contacted by their auditor at least two weeks before their certification is due to expire. They can then decide if they wish to have an on-farm or a remote audit.
In order to qualify for doing audits, auditors must first complete training on safety procedures relating to COVID-19 and complete the Bord Bia Return To Audit Survey.
Auditors must also use the Government COVID Tracker App on the day of each audit to confirm that they are not experiencing any COVID-19 symptoms before arriving on farms.
Responsibility also lies with the farmer being inspected to follow public health guidelines with regard to social distancing, hand hygiene and respiratory etiquette (coughing).
For farmers who opt for a remote audit, these are the areas to watch out for when completing your remote audit to avoid unnecessary non-conformances and returns:
Facilities and housing
Clear pictures of records are essential to avoid having to send them again. If you require further assistance or guidance, contact the Bord Bia Helpdesk: 01-524 0410.
Bord Bia audits are a chore that there is no avoiding for farmers, if they want to have cattle or sheep in the QA scheme when they get to the factory or milk processed by the co-op.
It is not compulsory but farms that aren’t quality assured (QA) will have a reduced number of market options. This may not be so apparent when there is a good trade but when the market is weak, they will be a lower price. For most dairy farmers, being QA is compulsory.
The audit itself is a bit like the NCT for cars. Most of what is needed is a legal requirement anyway but the inspection verifies that everything is in order or being put in order. It is a hassle for farmers getting everything ready for the inspection and putting right things the auditor identifies in the inspection. In this article, Bord Bia has identified the main problem areas that are found and hopefully this will help farmers to be ready.
There are mixed views among farmers about the online audit. They are a pain for farmers not comfortable with technology or who don’t have adequate broadband or mobile signal.
Other farmers, particularly those that also work off farm and are comfortable with technology, find that online audits are a more convenient option like online marts.
When things get back to normal, Bord Bia should retain the online option and offer farmers a choice on which they prefer.