What to expect during an on-farm CSI audit
An on-farm visit by an auditor will likely be routine for pork producers in the future. Knowing what an auditor expects and what pork producers can do during the audit will help prepare for a positive and successful experience.
“The demand for livestock audits has never been greater,” reported Collette Kaster, executive director of the Professional Animal Auditor Certification Organization (PAACO).
In 2016, PAACO began training and certifying swine welfare auditors using the Common Swine Industry (CSI) audit as the guide.
CSI auditor training
“People who are auditors view it as a profession, and all professions require some degree of certification,” Kaster said. “We are very selective about who we let into the training. They need to have experience in livestock or in auditing a meat plant or in food safety.”
People accepted in the PAACO auditor program must complete an online component, attend a PAACO training course and pass an exam. The final step is completing shadow audits with certified auditors.
“We review the shadow audits thoroughly to make sure the person is ready to be certified,” Kaster said. “They must go through expectations of behavior during audits and sign a code of conduct.
“They are also taught how to write accurate reports,” she continued. “They are there to paint a picture about what is happening on an operation on a particular day and time — only using the audit standard. No opinions, just the facts.”
Those who seek to be auditors must show competence, ethics, diplomacy, confidentiality and independence.
“They have to work with all types of clients,” Kaster said. “They must communicate with both the leaders of companies and with people who are doing entry-level tasks. They must show respect, listen and make decisions.”
Preparing for an audit
A big component of an audit is paperwork. “We are in a time when everything has to be documented — and as the saying goes, ‘if it is not documented, then you didn’t do it,’” Kaster said.
Pork producers are expected to maintain certain records like daily observations, medication use, employee biosecurity and animal-welfare training, and emergency action plans. The list is available online.
“Sometimes paperwork, like medication records, really matters if you have a problem and you need to determine how big it is and how to get control of it,” she explained.
“In the case of negative animal-welfare findings, if you can show that the farm is PQA plus certified, participates in trainings and audits, it may help improve your position or minimize the damage.”
Things to do during an audit
Most hog-farm audits are either required or requested by packers or other downstream customers. Generally, the farm is notified prior to the audit so the farm’s biosecurity measures can be followed. Kaster said that producers have the right to require auditors meet a farm’s biosecurity rules.
Producers also have the right to check the credentials of the auditor before the audit. PAACO Certified Auditors are listed online at animalauditor.org.
During the audit, it is essential that someone representing the hog farm accompanies the auditor so he or she can see what the auditor sees, Kaster emphasized. “If you see something during the audit, then the auditor should discuss it with the farm immediately.
“It is appropriate to question a finding. You can say, ‘I don’t agree with your interpretation’ and follow up in a professional and respectful way,” she explained.
Auditors are expected to precisely follow the audit being used, most typically the CSI audit. This means adhering to the sampling criteria. “If it says every sixth sow, then the auditor should do exactly what it says,” Kaster said.
Things not to do during an audit
“Do not pump the auditor for competitor information,” Kaster said. “Auditors are there to audit, not consult, and this is emphasized during training. You can ask about best practices or how to do something to be compliant with the audit.”
Occasionally there is negative feedback about auditors. The complaints include sampling too many animals, giving opinions and unnecessary interaction with people who have nothing to do with the audits.
One thing is certain — these on-farm audits are here to stay. “This is an area that is not going away,” Kaster added. “If anything, expectations for animal-welfare requirements will continue to grow.”