LAST week’s Pasturefed Cattle Assurance System webinar produced a mountain of questions from the 350 stakeholders who subscribed to participate in the informative, one-hour information session hosted by Beef Central and FutureBeef.
The webinar’s time allowance made it impossible for speakers to get across all of the questions asked by stakeholders during the session, so we’ve made the decision to publish these in summary form on Beef Central this week.
Where similar questions were asked on the same topic, we’ve woven these into a single Q&A, where possible.
The quality of the questions asked during Thursday’s webinar session (see this morning’s separate intro article) clearly demonstrates that many beef producers now have their head around what’s involved in participating in the PCAS program, and have moved on to more sophisticated, informed topics that they are seeking guidance on from program managers.
Here’s your questions, together with answers from PCAS coordinator Lisa Cotter (LC) and Teys Australia’s Geoff Teys (GT):
We have grass cattle with grain supplement (not lot fed). Can the rest of the grass paddocks not used for grain cattle, be PCAS paddocks? The PCAS system requires that cattle have never been fed any separate grain or grain by-product.
Yes, the rest of the paddocks can be used for PCAS, provided you get approval from PCAS administration about running a Purposeful Parallel Production. Additionally, you need to develop records to ensure that the non-PCAS animals are permanently visually identified as ineligible and the method of identification is recorded. Such ineligible cattle must also be segregated from eligible cattle at all times. LC
For rangelands cattle, does cutting topfeed (eg mulga) affect PCAS acceptability?
No, as mulga is not a grain product or a by-product. The PCAS Standards contain a list of definitions in Appendix 9 and this identifies that an eligible diet under PCAS can consist of forage derived from leaf and twig growth from shrubs. LC
Is whole cotton seed allowable?
Yes, cotton seed is allowable under PCAS as it is not a cereal grain. Cottonseed is listed in Appendix 7 of the PCAS Standards as an approved supplement. LC
What about stubble after the crop has been harvested?
Yes, PCAS does allow for cattle to graze stubble after the crop has been harvested. PCAS allows for certified animals to graze on a paddock after a cereal crop has been harvested only when 75pc of the paddocks average vegetative regrowth was higher than 21cm when the cattle first grazed. Records of this regrowth need to be kept for the annual on-farm audit. LC
We early-weaned calves this year on cracked barley for only four weeks, at 3-5 months of age. These calves will be on pasture now for another 18-24 months before they are finished. Does that bit of grain at such a young age rule us out of PCAS?
Yes, PCAS requires that cattle have never been fed separate grain or grain by-products. Appendix 8 of the Pasturefed Cattle Assurance System lists the banned feedstuffs. LC
What about hay fed to cattle during yard-weaning or time of drought?
PCAS does allow for the consumption of hay provided there are no grain or grain by-products present. Producers need to keep detailed and comprehensive records of the supplements they give their cattle for the on-farm audits. LC
What about silage feeding systems?
A silage feeding system is acceptable under PCAS. Consumption of silage by cattle while on pasture is not restricted under the PCAS Standards, Appendix 7. Producers should keep records of what has been supplied to cattle for the on-farm audits. LC
Does this eliminate grain assisted cattle?
Yes, PCAS requires that cattle have never been fed separate grain or grain by-product. LC
Are leucaena (browse legume) and palm kernel meal ok to feed when weaning?
Yes, as they are not cereal grains. PCAS requires that cattle have never been fed separate grain or grain by-products. LC
Does rye grass mixed with natural grass and phalarus heads disqualify the cattle from PCAS, if grazed in the paddock?
No. Naturally occurring grasses and seed heads in grazing systems doesn’t preclude cattle from being eligible for PCAS. Element 3 of the PCAS Standards covers the eligible diet. LC
Loose lick with a copra base, is that ok?
Loose licks with a copra base are allowable under PCAS provided the ingredients do not contain items on the banned feedstuff list, contained in Appendix 8 of the PCAS Standards. Essential for PCAS certification is that the loose licks do not contain any grain products or by-products in any form. Producers should keep records of licks used and their ingredients list for the on farm audit. For the antibiotic-free module, it is also important to ensure lick blocks are free from any banned substance, such as monensin. LC
Oaten hay while the cattle are being processed through yards and weaning, is that OK?
PCAS does allow for the consumption of oaten hay provided that the crop was still in a pre-grain state when it was bailed. Records of the oaten hay used should be kept for on-farm audit purposes. LC
Can you please clarify that cereal grain pasture crops can be grazed before the flower stage?
Cereal crops can be grazed, provided that the grazing took place when the crop was still in a pre-grain. A pre-grain state is defined as below stages 69 on the Zadoks Growth Scale. Where cattle are grazing on a cereal grain crop, digitally-dated photos should be taken when the cattle are moved off the crop to demonstrate that the crop was still in a pre-grain state during the grazing period. Increasing stocking density to ensure that the crop does not ripen during grazing is an acceptable alternative to moving cattle off the crop. LC
Some people have allergies to any grains. Why not ban cattle grazing all forage grains altogether even before they go to seed? Wouldn’t this be difficult to police anyhow (cattle not grazing beyond the flowering/seed stage)?
PCAS ensures that cattle have been pasturefed their entire lifetime. The grazing of cereal grain crops that are still in a pre-grain state ensures that the benefits gained through a pasture fed animal are maintained. The on-farm audit requirement provides a suitable policing method as producers need to demonstrate that grazing of the crop occurred while the crop was still in a pre-grain state. Producers grazing cattle on cereal crop should take digitally-dated photos of the crop to prove that when the cattle where moved off the crop it was still in a pre-grain state. LC
What are the restrictions for cattle grazing grain crops that have been treated with chemicals?
PCAS is focused on ensuring that cattle are pasturefed their entire lives. It is not an Organic certification system. The only restriction PCAS has on cattle grazing grain crops is in relation to ensuring that the crop is in a pre-grain state. LC
What about Urea – is it allowed?
The use of urea is allowed under PCAS. Appendix 8 of the PCAS Standards provides a non-exclusive list of feedstuffs banned under PCAS. LC
Is Beachport Liquid mineral supplementation allowable?
Beachport Liquid Mineral is allowable under PCAS as it does not contain any grain products or by-products. Keep records on any supplement given to cattle, including the ingredient list, for the on-farm audit component of PCAS. LC
We have a lease block as well as our own property. Do we have to have an audit for both PICS even though they are being run under exactly same conditions; so therefore, would we be up for two audit costs because they are two different PICS?
Yes, the PCAS certification is linked to a PIC and therefore each property would need to be included in your PCAS audit. These can be done simultaneously. LC
In regard to “free to roam” how does weaning impact on this?
Under PCAS, yard weaning is allowable, provided that the cattle are not fed any grain products or by-products, Appendix 8 PCAS Standards, and that any supplements given were allowed, Appendix 7 PCAS Standards. Additionally, the time period cannot exceed 20 days per animal in a calendar year. Producers need to keep records of how long each animal is yarded and what feed they were given during the period. LC
What about yard weaning?
Yard weaning is allowed under PCAS provided that the cattle were not fed any grain products or by-products, Appendix 8 PCAS Standards, and that any supplements given were allowed, Appendix 7 PCAS Standards. Additionally, the time period cannot exceed 20 days per animal in a calendar year. Producers need to keep records of how long each animal is yarded and what feed they were given during the period. LC
What about confinement at yard weaning?
Yard weaning is allowed under PCAS provided the time period does not exceed 20 days per animal in a calendar year. Producers need to keep records of how long each animal is yarded and the feed that they were given during the period. LC
If we purchase cows and calves that are not certified, would the calves be eligible?
The calves would be eligible for PCAS provided that when they were purchased it was their first sale and they were less than 10 months old. Additionally, the supplier of the weaners needs to sign a PCAS Non-Certified Supplier Declaration which ensures that the weaners have been raised in a manner that is consistent with the PCAS Standards from sale to birth. LC
If we had them identified, can certified cattle be run together with purchased cattle that are not certified?
No. Currently PCAS does not allow for certified cattle to be run together with uncertified cattle. At present if producers want to introduce uncertified cattle onto their certified PIC, then this is classified as Purposeful Parallel Production, and two requirements must be fulfilled. Firstly producers must apply for Purposeful Parallel Production from PCAS administration. Secondly, those uncertified animals are permanently visually identified as ineligible and the method of identification is recorded. Such ineligible cattle must also be segregated from eligible cattle at all time.LC
Can cattle be transfer between producers with PCAS certification?
Yes, cattle that are certified under PCAS can be transferred between PCAS-certified producers. The transfer of the cattle must be accompanied with a PCAS Vendor Declaration, which is available at http://www.certifiedpasturefed.com.au/
Can some animals on a property be certified and not others, or is the System only for whole-of-property?
PCAS does allow, under certain circumstances, for certified and non-certified animals to be on the same property. If producers want to have uncertified and certified cattle on their certified PIC then this is classified as Purposeful Parallel Production and two requirements must be fulfilled. Firstly producers must apply for Purposeful Parallel Production from PCAS administration. Secondly, those uncertified animals are permanently visually identified as ineligible and the method of identification is recorded. Such ineligible cattle must also be segregated from eligible cattle at all time. LC
Please explain the criteria for purchased cattle eligibility for PCAS.
There are two ways in which purchased cattle can be eligible for PCAS. Firstly, through purchasing cattle through another PCAS-certified producer. This transaction needs to be accompanied with a PCAS NVD, available at http://www.certifiedpasturefed.com.au/. The other way in which purchased cattle can be eligible for PCAS is with weaners, provided they meet a number of requirements. Firstly, a weaner for PCAS purposes is a calf which is less than 10 months old and it has been weaned for the purpose of its first sale to a PCAS PIC or a property prior to certification. Additionally the supplier of the weaners needs to sign a PCAS Non-Certified Supplier Declaration. LC
Is that the same for Agistment? Expanded, when agisting, does the farm my animals are being agisted-on need to be PCAS?
Yes, as PCAS certification is linked to Property Identification Code (PIC). Certification PCAS cattle need to be agisted on a property that is also certified. This is due to the need for the on-farm auditors to be able to identify and inspect the property that PCAS certification cattle are agisting on. LC
If I am a cattle trader, what documentation do I need with any steers I buy?
To buy steers that are able to be PCAS certified, there are two options available. Firstly to buy steers from a Certified PCAS Producer and then for the transfer of the stock to be accompanied by a PCAS NVD. The second method is to purchase weaner steers from a non-certified PIC. Weaners can be introduced from a non-certified property onto a certified property, provided they meet the definition of weaner under the PCAS Standards and the supplier of the weaners’ signs a PCAS Non-Certified Supplier Declaration. The PCAS Standards define a weaner as a young calf that was weaned for the purpose of its first sale onto a Certified PIC or property prior to Certification, i.e. less than ten months
If you intend to run PCAS certified and non-certified cattle on your property then this is classified as Purposeful Parallel Production and two requirements must be fulfilled. Firstly you must apply for Purposeful Parallel Production from PCAS Administration. Additionally, the non-PCAS animals need to be permanently visually identified as ineligible and record the method of identification. Such ineligible cattle must be segregated from the PCAS animals at all times. Further, in regard to the lifetime traceability of your yearlings, this can be proven through a number of means. Firstly, and the preferred method would be through the NLIS devices being fitted to the yearlings and recorded. However if a producers’ NLIS is not sufficiently up to date then the producer can seek to have an alternate process used for traceability. The producer is required to seek approval from PCAS Administration of their alternate process prior to the initial onsite audit. The alternate method needs to demonstrate that accurate records of identity have been maintained and that the animal has been raised in a manner consistent with PCAS Standards from birth to sale. LC
If we are only interested in using our yearlings (purely bred on our property for PCAS) & therefore total traceability is that ok?
For a producer to have PCAS-certified cattle and non-certified cattle on their property, then this activity is classified as Purposeful Parallel Production and two requirements must be fulfilled. Firstly you must apply for Purposeful Parallel Production from PCAS Administration. Additionally, the non- PCAS animals need to be permanently visually identified as ineligible and record the method of identification. Such ineligible cattle must be segregated from the PCAS animals at all times. Further, in regard to the lifetime traceability of your yearlings, this can be proven through a number of means. Firstly, and the preferred method would be through the NLIS devices being fitted to the yearlings and recorded. However if a producers’ NLIS is not sufficiently up to date then the producer can seek to have an alternate process used for traceability. The producer is required to seek approval from PCAS Administration of their alternate process prior to the initial onsite audit. LC
Can a PCAS property take non-certified cattle on agistment?
If producers intend to agist non-certified cattle onto a certified PIC, then this is classified as Purposeful Parallel Production and two requirements must be fulfilled. Firstly the producer must apply for Purposeful Parallel Production from PCAS Administration. Secondly, the non-certified animals need to be permanently visually identified as ineligible and the method of identification is recorded. The ineligible animals must also be segregated from the eligible cattle at all time. LC
If we want to put some of these yearlings onto confined space feeding, totally separate and nowhere near the PCAS animals & we keep total segregation so that there is no way they can be near these animals’ feed (I think you call it parallel production) is this feasible if total records are kept & animals clearly identified?
If you intend to run a production system that there are certified and non-certified animals then you would be running a Purposeful Parallel Production and two requirements must be fulfilled. Firstly you must apply for Purposeful Parallel Production through PCAS Administration. Additionally the non-certified PCAS animals need to be permanently visually identified as ineligible and the method of identification is recorded. The ineligible animals need to be segregated from the animals at all times. LC
If an animal has therapeutic antibiotic treatment for a week – can it still be regarded as antibiotic free i.e. no antibiotics included in feeding?
No. PCAS optional module 2 requires that the cattle have never been treated with antibiotics. That includes low-level or therapeutic-level doses. The only acceptable use of antibiotics under the antibiotic-free module is the use of anthelmintic for the treatment of parasites. LC
Do animals treated with antibiotics have to be separated from other PCAS animals?
No, but there is a need to ensure that the animal that has been treated with antibiotic is clearly able to be identifiable. LC
Can cows be vaccinated with Rotavac Corona for white scours and rota virus?
Yes, vaccinations are allowed under PCAS, is distinct from the Organic certification systems, as the focus is on cattle being grassfed their entire lives. LC
When keeping records for audit, are batch numbers required for drenches used?
There are no specific requirements, however keeping good and detailed records of what products have been administered to stock is highly recommended for the audits. LC
Is drenching ok and spraying for ticks and buffalo fly?
Yes. PCAS is not an Organic certification system, rather, its focus is on allowing producers to make certified grassfed production claims. LC
Is Fasimec for fluke acceptable?
Yes, PCAS is not an organic certification system and it focus is on allowing producers to make certified grassfed production claims. LC
Oestrogen is a main ingredient of HGP – yet females 2 to 8 teeth have natural oestrogen. Are open females – not spayed – considered HGP free?
The HGP-free optional module under PCAS ensures that cattle have never been treated with an HGP, not that animals do not contain hormones. As the oestrogen in 2-8 tooth female cattle is naturally-occurring and has not been enhanced through the use of an HGP, it has no bearing on the animal’s PCAS eligibility. LC
Due to retention issues, all my home-bred cattle don’t receive NLIS tags until they enter the sale paddock. Does this make my business ineligible?
PCAS requires that cattle are able to be identified and traceable for their entire lives. Your property’s use of the NLIS system does not make you ineligible. To gain accreditation under PCAS you have to demonstrate that you have an alternate process and must seek approval from PCAS administration prior to the initial onsite audit. LC
Do we have to show a reconciled NLIS database?
PCAS requires that cattle are able to be identified and traceable for their entire lives. Your property’s use of the NLIS system does not make you automatically ineligible, but producers must demonstrate how they ensure lifetime tractability of their animals. This is a new change to the standards. However producers do have a requirement to ensure that the information on the NLIS is correct. LC
We are owner breeders that have lost a lot of NLIS tags recently, are working with the supplier of the tags as it was a product defect, will this interfere with our accreditation
The lack of NLIS devices in your breeder cattle does not automatically mean you are ineligible for PCAS. You will need an alternate process to be able to prove identification and lifetime traceability as required by PCAS. Producers that have an alternate system of identification and traceability need to seek approval from PCAS Administration prior to the initial onsite audit. The alternate process needs to demonstrate that it is effectively able to identify eligible and ineligible cattle, this easier for breeders than for traders. LC
What is the web address to look up the detail of requirements?
The PCAS website is http://www.certifiedpasturefed.com.au/
What is the timeframe between applying for PCAS and certification approval?
The timeframe from applying until successful PCAS certification is highly dependent upon the ability of the producer to be ready for an on-farm audit, requiring up-to-date records and also the availability of the third party auditors. LC
Does Phoenix Livestock manage the lifetime individual recording and reporting requirements sufficiently enough for PCAS?
The recording and reporting requirements capable under Phoenix Livestock are unknown to PCAS Admin, but most commercial record-keeping systems would cover the basis of PCAS. Phoenix Livestock may be able to give you more detail about what the program covers. LC
Is PCAS breed-specific in any way?
PCAS is not breed specific. All cattle breeds are eligible under PCAS provided they comply with the PCAS Standards. LC
Where does PCAS sit with respect to EU and MSA accreditation?
The European Union Cattle Accreditation Scheme (EUCAS) is a national animal production system for the supply of cattle to the EU. The Scheme is an HGP free system and thus the PCAS +HGP free may assist producers in meeting the EUCAS requirements. Additionally, producers that are already EUCAS accredited may find that the on farm practices and record keeping requirements under PCAS are similar to those required for EUCAS. Finally the audit schedule for EUCAS is set by DAFF and you cannot request EUCAS audits. As such, it is not generally possible to synchronise EUCAS audits with PCAS at this point. LC
When will we see lamb, chicken and pork under similar programs to PCAS?
PCAS has been established by the Cattle Council of Australia. As the Cattle Council is the peak industry body for beef producers it is solely focused on beef cattle. LC
We are accredited as Certified Organic and USDA NOP producers and are 100pc grassfed using cell grazing. What is needed in addition to the accreditations we already have? Will the organic inspector that currently does our annual organic audit be able to do this audit at the same time?
PCAS is focused on farm practices of grass production systems and also on farm handling methods. The criteria for PCAS are different from organic certification, which has a focus on ensuring that chemicals have not been used in the animals production. The core modules for PCAS are: identification and lifetime traceability, no confinement for the purpose of intensive feeding for production, lifetime pasturefed and minimum eating quality standards, with the optional modules of HGP and antibiotic free. You need to contact the PCAS auditor to determine whether they are capable of also conducting your other audits. LC
What is the state/regional uptake or registration of PCAS?.
The PCAS uptake has been greatest across the eastern states. The uptake of PCAS should only continue to grow into the future. LC
All other things being equal, what is the typical price margin between PCAS and non-PCAS cattle?
The premiums vary depending on when you consign the cattle. For more detailed pricing information or to obtain a grid please contact your local Teys cattle buyer. GT
Do heifers attract the same money as steers? If not what differential?
Heifers are priced at 5c/kg below the steer rate. GT
Is Teys awarding the 10c/kg premium from October?
A 10c/ cents premium will be paid from October for all PCAS- eligible cattle that do not grade under Teys MSA specifations. GT
Cattle that meet MSA standards but not Teys company standards – are these paid a PCAS premium?
These cattle will be awarded a 10c/kg premium from October. GT
Will the 10c/kg premium for 5-8 teeth cattle be on top of the base MSA Grass price?
Cattle that do not meet these specifications (eg 5-8 tooth cattle) will be paid 10c/kg above our grass prices for the month of slaughter. GT
What will the premium be for young cattle this year and last year. If averaged only 10c I would like to think that after going to the trouble of auditing and paperwork that the premium would be more?
The PCAS grid for young cattle (0-4 teeth) that grade as per Teys MSA specifications have been set as high as $4.30 in August. The 10c premium is specifically for the cattle that do not meet these specifations. GT
There does not seem to be a premium paid for PCAS accreditation above what is received for EU?
At present we are to date the premium paid above EU prices has been as high as 50c/kg. GT
Where are the current markets? Are there grids available?
Currently Teys is marketing PCAS beef both domestically and for export. You can obtain grids for June through October by contacting your Teys cattle buyer or plant. GT
MSA grading doesn’t require dentition, only the Teys grid requires dentition under 4 teeth?
Teys currently requires that the cattle are from 0-4 teeth to be eligible for MSA premiums. From October we will be paying a 10c premium to cattle that do not meet our MSA specifications. GT
As a smaller producer, is there a minimum lot-size that processors are interested in purchasing under PCAS?
Teys has no minimum number required per consignment from any particular vendor. GT
My husband and I are Central QLD beef producers and I myself have completed a Bachelor of Health Science and practice as a Naturopath. The PCAS is obviously geared towards meeting consumer demand for health conscious beef. Would Teys see any benefit in utilising a Naturopath, such as myself who has experience in the production and understands the health benefits of the PCAS beef, for the promotion and marketing of their product to maximise productivity?
This might be something we could look into in the future. GT