Pork 360 farm audits: 2023 cycle

The 2023 Pork 360 farm certification audits kicked off in September 2023. A total of 125 units were audited for certification between 12 September and 13 December 2023, including feed mills. A small selection of farm managers requested to postpone their audits until early-2024. Feed-mill specific certification audits were initiated in this audit cycle, which was not without challenges. The Pork 360 feed mill standard will be thoroughly reviewed in 2024 to facilitate more accurate auditing. The feed mill standard was created to negate any external pressures on home-mix feed mills to comply with standards not tailored to the South African setting. The audits were divided amongst 12 specialist veterinary auditors, and audit findings are summarised in the below figures.

Figure 1 Major and minor counts
Figure 2 Major and minor counts by group

All audits were recorded on the World of Pork platform. Auditors signed off the audits online and then each audit was verified by Pork 360 administration. All non-conformance findings must be signed off by the auditor before the audit is closed out. According to Pork 360 policy, any unit found to have more than three major findings is required to perform a re-audit, and three minor findings are considered equivalent to one major finding. The World of Pork platform automatically collates audit findings as in Figures 1 and 2. This can be compared to the 2022 audit cycle, where there were 16,71% major findings and 83,29% minor findings. Special attention is given to major findings and their causes. The 2023 major findings were clustered in the same categories as the 2022 findings.

More about major and minor findings

Major findings in the feed category were largely around antimicrobial usage in feed, the testing of feed for residual antibiotics, the testing of water for heavy metals, indicator organisms, and chemicals, and the management or follow-up of any findings during testing. Version 10 of the farm standards requires that feed for finishers and cull sows be tested on a quarterly basis for antimicrobial residues. Any positive results found need to be investigated by management and/or a consulting veterinarian. Water must be tested at the point of use for chemical components and microorganisms.

Major findings in the medications and vaccines category mainly centred around record-keeping in terms of antibiotic usage and the control of needles. Version 10 requires that all scheduled medicines used must be prescribed by a veterinarian registered with the South African Veterinary Council (SAVC). Detailed records must be kept of antibiotic and medicine usage. Needle control is vital for public health, considering meat safety and the inappropriate use of needles outside the farm setting.

It is vital for antimicrobial stewardship that records of antibiotic usage and prescriptions for antibiotics be kept up to date. This includes injectable and in-feed antibiotics. As an industry, we need to be kept accountable for antibiotic usage and aware of our perceived role in causing antimicrobial resistance. Antimicrobial resistance is of the highest priority as a One Health issue worldwide. With the emergence of new diseases and the persistence of some treatable diseases, there is great emphasis on how and why we use antibiotics. Pork 360 aims to keep producers and consultants accountable for antibiotic usage simply but thoroughly.   

Certification audit findings will be used to determine which units require an internal audit. Units that have received, in the past two certification (external) audits, no positive antimicrobial results in feed and/or meat, no major findings, and no more than three minor findings in either of the last two certification audits will not require internal audits as long as compliance is maintained. Should the internal auditor or consultant deem it necessary, an internal audit may be recommended to the Pork 360 office where the merit of the audit will be considered. A list of units requiring internal audits will be published in March 2024.

Pork 360 planning

Pork 360 administration meets annually with Pork 360 auditors as well as a Pork 360 strategy committee in February. This is in compliance with ISO 9001 standards and helps to guide Pork 360 and keep it relevant in the South African setting. The strategy meeting is where farmers can give inputs on the goals and strategic objectives of the scheme.

Pork 360 policies and documentation are kept in line with ISO 9001 standards and are reviewed on an annual basis. The review is underway and should be completed by the end of the first quarter of 2024.

Dr Peter Evans