HIKE Scenario 01-09: Density of Cattle in Pen/Access to Wate
You are the IIC of a fed cattle slaughter and processing establishment. It is close to the end of the shift, and therefore you are aware that the cattle remaining in the pens will need to be held overnight. 9 CFR 313.2 (e) requires that establishments provide adequate space for animals to lie down if held overnight and this regulation requires that animals have access to water. You decide to verify that the establishment is compliant with this regulation. (Time will be recorded under Category III Water and Feed Availability in HATS.)
You know that the water tanks at this facility are permanent structures, so you want to verify that all tanks are filled with water, are working properly and accessible to the animals. In addition, you want to determine whether the cattle have adequate room in the pens to lie down.
You are aware that the establishment has developed a written program that creates a systemic approach of humane handling and slaughtering following the Federal Register Notice dated September 9, 2004 (volume 69, number 174). This program describes how the plant will space cattle held overnight following the Recommended Animal Handling Guides by Dr. Temple Grandin, Colorado State University to American Meat Institute. This particular program includes a non-regulatory provision of 20 square feet per 1200 pound cattle to allow for adequate space for handlers to drive cattle safely, for the cattle to have access to water, and for all the animals to be able to lie down. The establishment personnel have the responsibility, based on the establishments written program, to check the holding pens randomly per shift to verify that the cattle have access to water. Also at end of the shift, the establishment needs to check that cattle held overnight will have adequate space to lie down and access to water.
You are surprised when you enter the livestock holding area and find that 2 holding pens are full and appear to be overcrowded; you investigate further. You determine that the two cattle pens are overcrowded because animals in the back of the pen cannot move to the water trough and therefore do not have access to the water. You ask the yards supervisor about the conditions in these pens, and he explains that there is a gate broken in the 1 large pen, so he mixed groups of cattle together (double the normal density). You share with him that, in observing the cattle, it is clear that not all cattle in these 2 pens have access to the water, and that, based on the double density in the pen the cattle will also not have room to lie down. You further question him about the establishments written program and why it is not being followed. He stated that they are short 2 livestock handlers and that the random checks had not been performed, and that 3 loads of cattle had arrived early.
You inform him (as directed by 9 CFR 313.50) that this is noncompliance with the regulations as cattle need access to water at all times [in accordance with 9 CFR 313.2 (e)], and that if the animals are to be held overnight, they will need adequate space to lie down. He states that he just filled these pens, and that he had fully intended to move approximately half the cattle to the large pen. He also states that maintenance has been notified to fix the gate, and the cattle will be separated again, within the hour, when the gate is repaired.
As you finish your discussion with the yard's supervisor, a livestock truck arrives with a full load of cattle. You ask the yards supervisor where he is going to pen these animals. He explains to you that this truck came early, and that it was supposed to arrive tomorrow morning. He asks whether the establishment (after it stops driving cattle to slaughter) could use the alleyways as a temporary holding pen in order to decrease the cattle density in each pen and to pen the new arrivals. Because of the unusual circumstance, you state that it would be acceptable to use the alleyway as long as the animals penned there have access to water and room to lie down. He states that large stable water buckets will be placed in the alleyways so that the animals have access to water. He also points out that by using the alleyways; there will be more then enough room for the animals to lie down. You find this approach, if correctly implemented, is consistent with the regulatory requirement.
Your verification of establishment humane handling practices found overcrowded livestock holding pens, so overcrowded, that many cattle did not have access to water. Though the establishment has a humane handling program in place, it failed to follow that program and was noncompliant with 9 CFR 313.2(e). This regulation requires that livestock have access to water at all times while being held in holding pens. Also, you had concern with the amount of room the cattle have for lying down, since they are going to be held overnight. You discussed this concern with establishment management.
You informed the establishment of your findings, as mandated by 9 CFR 313.50, and received assurances from the establishment that its intent was to reduce the number of livestock in the holding pens to an acceptable number. In addition, you informed the establishment that it did not follow its program. Therefore your decision was not to take a regulatory control action but you did document this noncompliance on an NR.
During your discussions with establishment management, more cattle arrived, and you discussed with the establishment how it would effectively handle these animals in addition to the animals already being held in the holding pens. The decision to accept the use of drive alleys as holding pens is acceptable as long as the establishment understands that water needs to be accessible to these animals.
As the IIC, you determine that there is a noncompliance with 313.2 (e), all cattle should have access to water in the holding pens. You document the overcrowding of two pens on a noncompliance record. Also you determine that there was not a violation of the portion of Part 313 that requires that there be space for all cattle to lie down when held overnight. However, you determine that it is appropriate to verify the establishments planned actions to determine whether any further action or documentation is necessary. So, you go back out on the catwalk above the cattle pens just prior to leaving for the day to verify that the cattle have been moved, have adequate space to lie down, and have access to water.