FAQ

Pasturefed Cattle Assurance System (PCAS)

What is Pasturefed Cattle Assurance System?

The Pasturefed Cattle Assurance System, or PCAS for short, is a certification program that enables grassfed cattle producers' to prove claims relating to pasturefed or grassfed production methods.

Underpinning PCAS are the PCAS Standards which govern the on-farm feed requirements and traceability of the cattle, as well as animal handling practices which influence eating quality. The PCAS Standards also include two optional modules to support claims relating to the freedom from antibiotics and hormone growth promotants (HGPs).

PCAS enables producers’ to prove that they operate grassfed production systems through having their systems certified. To gain certification producers needs to ensure that their on-farm practices comply with the requirements of the PCAS Standards and that they maintain accurate records to prove their compliance.  The requirements of the PCAS Standards mean that eligible cattle:

·        Have access to graze open pasture their entire life

·        Have not been confined for the purposes of intensive feeding for production

·        Are fully traceable for their entire life

·        Are guaranteed to eat well, based on MSA, and if required

·        Are free from Hormone Growth Promotants (HGPs) and/or

·        Are free from antibiotics.

The third party on-site audits ensure that PCAS  has high degree of integrity, as this process allows for independent verification that on-farm practices comply with the r PCAS Standards.

Producers that comply with the PCAS Standards and successfully complete an on-site audit are eligible to claim their product is "Certified Pasturefed" and use the Certified Pasturefed suite of certification marks.

What are the PCAS Standards?

The PCAS Standards underpin the Pasturefed Cattle Assurance System and are a set of requirements producers must meet in order to prove claims relating to pasturefed or grassfed production methods.

The PCAS Standards govern the on-farm feed requirements and traceability of the cattle as well as pre-slaughter handling practices which influence eating quality. There are also two optional modules within the standards to support claims relating to the freedom from hormone growth promotants and antibiotics.

The elements of the PCAS Standards are:

Element 1: Identification and Lifetime Traceability
Element 2: No Confinement for the Purpose of Intensive Feeding for Production
Element 3: Lifetime Pasturefed
Element 4: Minimum Eating Quality Standards (On-farm)

Element 5: Lifetime Free from Hormonal Growth Promotants (optional)
Element 6: Lifetime Free from Antibiotics (optional)

The PCAS Standards require a number of on-farm practices to be maintained and accurate records to be kept. These practices and records are not necessarily out of the ordinary and are typically associated with running a successful beef production enterprise.

 

How do I determine if my production system complies with the PCAS Standards?

Trying to determine whether your production system complies with the PCAS Standards can be difficult and a number of tools are available to assist producers in making this determination.

Self-Audit

The online self-audit is available and is specially designed to help producers determine their ability to conform to the requirements of the PCAS Standards.

The self-audit requires you to answer a series of questions about your production system and based your answers the self-audit will give an indication of your ability to meet the Standards during an on-site audit.

The system will provide you with on-screen feedback and it may advise that you need to make changes to your management system or on-farm practices in order to show compliance with the PCAS Standards.

PCAS Documents

There are a number of PCAS documents on the website that explain the requirements of the PCAS Standards and practical ways for producers to demonstrate their compliance.

PCAS Administration

If you have further questions or issues about PCAS then you can also contact PCAS Administration. The team at PCAS Administration is dedicated to answering your PCAS questions and would be happy to assist you in any way possible. 

 

How does PCAS fit with other industry programs and systems?

PCAS is a voluntary program, separate to other industry programs. It addresses specific requirements around pasturefed and grassfed production methods, as well as freedom from HGPs and antibiotics.

PCAS works in complement to Livestock Production Assurance (LPA), the National Livestock Identification System (NLIS) and Meat Standards Australia (MSA).

LPA, NLIS and MSA have management practice and record-keeping requirements. Many of these are also required under the PCAS Standards which means that producers may already be meeting many of the requirements for PCAS certification.  

While you do need to ensure your records are up-to-date and easily accessible for auditing purposes under PCAS, there is no need to duplicate records or practices that may already be in place as part of good management or for other programs such as LPA, NLIS or MSA.

 

How does PCAS fit with export market requirements?

US Markets

In developing PCAS, three US market requirements were considered:

  • The American Grassfed Association Grassfed Ruminant Standards
  • USDA Grass Fed Marketing Claims Standards (in development)
  • USDA Naturally Raised Marketing Claim Standards (in development)

Cattle Council of Australia has sought to ensure PCAS is consistent with these three standards so that Australian export products from Certified Pasturefed cattle are not excluded from these markets.

PCAS is not yet formally recognised outside of Australia, however Cattle Council of Australia continues to work towards achieving broader recognition.

EU Markets

The European Union Cattle Accreditation Scheme (EUCAS) is a national animal production system for supply of cattle to the European Union which enables the traceability of all cattle within the scheme through the use of the National Livestock Identification System (NLIS).

EUCAS is an HGP-free system.

Certified Pasturefed +HGP-free may assist you in meeting EUCAS requirements and Certified Pasturefed +HGP-free eligible cattle could be sold to this market, or visa versa, provided you are in EUCAS and meet all other requirements of that program.

For producers that are already EUCAS accredited, you may find that the on-farm practices and record keeping requirements under PCAS are similar to those required for EUCAS. While you do need to ensure your records are up-to-date and easily accessible for auditing purposes under PCAS, there is no need to duplicate activities or record keeping.

In many cases, if you are EU accredited, you will already be doing much of what is required under PCAS and may already be well on the way to achieving certification.

The EUCAS audit schedule is set by DAFF and you cannot request EUCAS audits. As such, it is not possible to synchronise EUCAS audits with PCAS audits at this point.

 

Who is responsible for PCAS?

Cattle Council of Australia (CCA) "owns" the Pasturefed Cattle Assurance System in that they own the name, brand, logo, Standards and database associated with PCAS.

CCA is responsible for the management and maintenance of the Standards, the database and the contracts for administration, auditing and certification services, the management of copyright and trademark requirements for the name/brand and/or logo.

If you have any questions about PCAS then please contact the  Cattle Council of Australia.

 

The Requirements of the PCAS Standards

What level of identification is required under by PCAS?

As PCAS makes lifetime claims it is essential to the integrity of the program that all PCAS animals are individually identifiable throughout their entire life. The Standards require that cattle identification has to be on an individual animal basis.

The individual identification requirements could be fulfilled through:

  • Applying NLIS tags and the devices used being recorded.
  • Using mangement tags with unique numbers.

Additionally, the identification element requires that eligible and ineligible animals can be clearly identified as having their set status. All ineligible cattle must be permanently visually identified as ineligible and the method of identification has to be clearly recorded.

Example of methods to identifying eligible and ineligible cattle are:

  • Applying a different coloured ear tag based on eligibility status.
  • Using an alternative numbering system based on eligibility status.
  • Making note of the NLIS device number specific to each animal and recording its eligibility status.

Any permanent physical marking or characteristic will generally not be accepted as a form of identification unless it is distinguishable and unique to the individual animal and/or the producer has sought and obtained approval from PCAS Administration for such identification.

 

How is an animals lifetime traceability demonstrated?

The assurances of PCAS are for the lifetime of the animal and as a result for the claims to have integrity the animals must have fully traceability for the entire life, from birth to slaughter.

Eligible cattle, except for weaners (as defined under the PCAS Standards), must have been on a Certified Pasturefed property since birth. Producers need to have records that demonstrate the lifetime traceability of their eligible cattle.

Acceptable methods of demonstrating lifetime traceability include, but are not limited to:

  • Maintaining a written (or electronic) record showing that the animal was born on-farm (eg a register or inventory showing on-farm bred numbers and specific identification information).
  • Animals holding an "LT" status on the NLIS database. If this method is used, device numbers on the database must correlate to the device numbers attached to animals currently on-farm.
  •  Retaining copies of LPA NVD/Waybills, PCAS Vendor Declarations and other movement documents.
  • Maintaining a written (or electronic) record showing introduced animals (eg a register or inventory showing introduced numbers and specific identification information)
  • Maintaining a written (or electronic) record showing the number of animals moved off the property (e.g. a register or inventory showing numbers sold and mortalities).
  • Retaining copies of PCAS Non-Certified Supplier Declarations.

 

Can I introduce cattle from a non-certified PIC onto my certified PIC?

Yes but certain requirements must be met:

Weaners

Weaners may be introduced from a non-certified PIC to a certified PIC provided they meet the definition of a weaner under the PCAS Standards and the supplier of the weaners signs a PCAS Non-Certified Supplier Declaration.

A weaner is defined by PCAS as a young calf that was suckling milk from its mother and was weaned for the purpose of its first sale onto a Certified Pasturefed property, is less than twelve months old and has been raised in a manner that is consistent with the PCAS Standards.

Pregnant tested in calf cows

Pregnant tested in calf, or PTIC, cows that are introduced onto a certified PIC from a non-certified PIC are not eligible for PCAS however their offspring can be, provided their treatment, feeding and handling is consistent with the PCAS Standards.

Other introduced cattle

If you intend to introduce cattle (other than those above) from a non-certified PIC onto your certified PIC an on-going basis this is classified as Purposeful Parallel Production and the following requirements apply:

  1. You must apply for Purposeful Parallel Production from PCAS Administration.
  2. Those introduced animals are permanently visually identified as ineligible and the method of identified is recorded. Such ineligible animals must also be segregated from eligible cattle at all times.

 

Can PCAS cattle be confined for certain activities?

Yes!

Eligible PCAS cattle can be yarded at any time for routine management, husbandry and transport activities such as; drafting, trucking, weighing, marking, weaning and preg testing.

Certified Pasturefed cattle can be confined for husbandry and management activities provided that the time spent in such confinment is not longer than what is required to carry out the management activities and it is does not exceed 20 days per year per animal

If feed is given to cattle during the period of confinment, then the supplementary feed must be consistent with the Eligible Diet and/or from the Approved Supplements List, and of course no Banned Substances can be given. Additionally, the period of confinement and the types of feeds given need to be recorded.

When cattle are yarded and feed is not required, then the period of confinement does not need to be recorded. 

PCAS animals can also be confinmed for transportation purposes. Confinement for the purpose of preparing cattle for transport is acceptable provided that each animal is not be confined for more than 7 days for each journey (including the time in transit).

 

Can I use licks under PCAS?

Licks are acceptable under PCAS provided that the ingredients do not contain a banned feedstuff, a non-exclusive list of banned feedstuffs is contained in Appendix 8 PCAS Standards. Additionally,  if you are seeking certification under the additional +HGP-free and +Antibiotic-free modules then you need to ensure that the licks do not contain HGPs and/or antibiotics.

You should check the ingredients list of any lick given to their cattle. Ingredients lists can be accessed either through the product container or also the product stockist.

For PCAS annual auditing purposes, you need to keep records of what licks cattle are fed including the ingredient list, the dates fed and the identification of what animals were given access to the lick.

Is yard weaning allowed under PCAS?

Yes!

Yard weaning is acceptable under PCAS provided that two requirements are met.

Firstly, the cattle are not fed any grain product or by-product, and that any fed supplements given during the yarding period are allowed. A non-exclusive list of acceptable feed supplements is contained in Appendix 7 of the PCAS Standards and if producers are unsure then they should contact PCAS Administration.

The second requirement is that the period of confinement does not exceed 20 days per animal in a calendar year.

For auditing purposes, producers should record both the start and end date of yard weaning, and any fed supplements given. 

Can I put cattle onto a cereal grain crop, say if it failed or after it has been harvested?

You can graze cattle on cereal grain crops, as long as the crop is in the pre-grain stage during grazing, or if after harvest, providing one of the following is met:

  •     75% of the paddock has reached 10cm of vegetative regrowth; or
  •     Five days subsequent of a post-harvest rainfall event of 5mm.

In the past the restriction surrounding stubble grazing stated that PCAS eligible cattle were not allowed to graze stubble until 75% of the paddock had reached 21cm of vegetative regrowth. This was changed to the above in September 2016.

In both cases, make sure you keep detailed records including photographs, to show that the crop was in the pre-grain stage and/or that regrowth post-harvest was sufficiently high.

If you are any doubt, do not put cattle onto a cereal grain crop until you have checked the Standards or contacted PCAS Administration.

 

If I need to supplementary feed my cattle, what am I allowed to feed them?

You can feed cattle any of the items from the Eligible Diet and/or from the Approved Supplements List.The PCAS Standards contain important information on what is allowable under the Eligible Diet and Approved Supplements, Appendix 9 and Appendix 7 respectively. 

Cattle must never be fed separated grain or grain by-products or items from the Banned Feedstuffs/Substances List. The non-exclusive list of banned substance and feedstuffs is contained in Appendix 8 of the Standards. These items may not be fed or provided to cattle throughout their entire lifetime, from birth to slaughter. 

Make sure you keep records of what you feed cattle including the ingredients/type of feed, the dates fed and the identification of the animals that were fed.

If you are any doubt, do not feed the items out until you have checked the list or contacted PCAS Administration.

 

Do my cattle have to meet the minimum eating quality requirements of MSA to be Certified Pasturefed?

Yes. All eligible cattle consigned to slaughter must be accompanied by a MSA Vendor Declaration which states that the cattle have come from an MSA accredited supplier and have been handled consistently with the requirements of MSA.

Check that you have confirmation of your MSA accreditation, or if you have never been accredited, visit the MLA website to find out how to become accredited. Make sure you are familiar with the requirements and have all the required MSA records.

Finally, ensure that all cattle consigned to slaughter as Certified Pasturefed are accompanied by a MSA Vendor Declaration and retain copies of these declarations for auditing purposes.

 

Can I use HGPs on any cattle on the property?

If you are seeking Certified Pasturefed +HGP-free status but want to treat some cattle with HGPs on an ongoing basis, this is considered Purposeful Parallel Production. It is allowable under PCAS provided you apply and obtain approval for this from PCAS Administration.

Part of the application process for approval will require you to demonstrate how you intend to keep these animals separated from the Certified Pasturefed +HGP-free cattle at all times and how you can positively visually identify these cattle.

You will also need to keep detailed records of those cattle that have been treated with HGPs and the method you use to identify them, as well as records accounting for the introduction and use of all HGPs on the property (such as purchase receipts and a register of usage).

 

Can I use any type of antibiotics on eligible cattle?

If you are seeking Certified Pasturefed+Antibiotic-free status then in order to maintain the eligibility status of any animal, you can only use topical antibiotics, such as ointments for pink eye or wounds, on such eligible cattle. Antibiotics (including sulphonamides, ionophores or coccidiostats) that are administered by injection or ingestion (ie through feed or water) are not allowed.

However, under the Antibiotic-free module, if an animal requires treatment and that treatment contains antibiotics, sulphonamides, ionophores or coccidiostats, make sure they receive the appropriate medication. 

This will not impact your certification status provided you render that animal ineligible to be sold as Certified Pasturefed and you identify the animal as such and record the method of identification.

 

Can I keep and use antibiotics on other animals?

Yes you can but if you are seeking Certified Pasturefed +Antibiotic-free status you need to ensure you keep detailed records about the antibiotics you purchase and store, the purpose of these, and how and when they are used or disposed of - even though they are not being used on cattle.

For example if you bring antibiotics onto the property to treat a horse or a dog, you will still need to record the introduction and use of these antibiotics.

 

Gaining and Maintaining PCAS Certification

What are the steps to becoming Certified Pasturefed?

To become Certified Pasturefed and be eligible to use the suite of certification marks, you must:

1.      Register your PIC(s) on the PCAS website and pay the annual administration fee.

2.      Choose one of the approved PCAS Certification Bodies  to conduct the on-site audit and complete a pre-audit application form. Your chosen Certification Body will then contact you with a quote and set a date for the audit. 

3.      Prepare for the on-site audit through ensuring that appropriate records are available. The PCAS Website has useful guides and templates to help you prepare for the audit. 

4.      Conducted the on-site audit and action any areas the auditor identifies as requiring improvements.

 

How do I arrange an on-farm audit?

To arrange an on-farm audit, you need to contact either one or both of the approved PCAS Certification Bodies. To be able to generate an accurate quote you will be required to complete a Pre-Audit Application Form.  This Form will ask you a series of questions around your production system. To ensure that you gain the best outcome discuss with the audit company the timing of the audit, travel costs and whether costs could be shared if other producers in the area having upcoming audits.

The cost of an audit is set by the individual Certification Body; they should be contacted directly for detailed cost information on the services required. You can find the details under the Certification Bodies section of this website.

You will be required to enter into a contract with your chosen organisation and pay all fees associated with the audit services directly to your nominated Certification Body.

 

What are the costs of PCAS?

PCAS Audit Costs

The cost of an audit is set by the individual PCAS Certification Body; they should be contacted directly for detailed cost information on the services required. Audit cost start at $600 and on average cost $850. The price is impacted by the level of complexity of each audit. Travel costs are over and above the audit costs. When you discuss your operation with the PCAS Certification Bodies, they can give you an indication of travel costs.

Travel costs can be shared among producers in the same area if co-ordinated at the time of scheduling the audit

Annual Administration Fee

A $200 annual administration fee is also charged by the Certification Body from the second year onwards and remitted to the Cattle Council of Australia; this fee funds the ongoing management and development of the PCAS program.

 

How long is time period between applying for PCAS and gaining certification?

The timeframe for registration to certification is highly dependent upon the availability of the third party auditors and also the ability of producers to be ready for an on-farm audit.

Producers need to contact the certification bodies to find out when an auditor would be able to come to their property.

The certification process can be delayed if producvers records are not up to date. For a quick certification process, producers need to ensure that their records are well prepared and PCAS Administration has a number of documents to assist producers in have audit ready records. 

 The on-farm audit requirement means that PCAS certification cannot be completed within a few days. 

How do I prepare for the on-farm audit?

The ability of producers to be well prepared for their on-farm audit is pivotal to gaining certification quickly. Producers need to ensure that all their records are up to date and sufficiently detailed.

To assist producers in preparing for their on-farm audits, PCAS Administration has a number of important documents. The PCAS Standards and the Producer Guide set out the specific elements required for PCAS certification and the performance indicators for each element. Additionally, there are a number of templates available to assist producers in maintaining good records for the audit.

Marketing Cattle as Certified Pasturefed

When can I use the term Certified Pasturefed?

You can begin using the term Certified Pasturefed and the suite of certification marks once you are fully certified. To become fully certified you need to have registered your PIC(s), paid the administration fee and successfully completed an on-farm audit.

You may only use the Marks on meat and meat products if you have signed a License Agreement with PCAS Administration. This requirement is designed to ensure that no Marks are used on non-PCAS products.

You can access the certification marks from this website after you have logged into your account.

Usage of the certification marks must be in line with the usage guidelines, these guidelines along with a set of sample certification marks can be found under the Certification Marks section.

How can I show my certification status?

You may show your certification status by using the Certification Marks and descriptors for whichever module/s you are certified under:

  • Certified Pasturefed
  • Certified Pasturefed +HGP-free
  • Certified Pasturefed +Antibiotic-free
  • Certified Pasturefed +HGP and Antibiotic-free

You will also be awarded a certificate which shows your certification status and the period it is valid for.

The certification marks may be used on your own marketing materials such as letterhead, product labels, signage and other collateral.

Usage of the certification marks must be in line with the usage guidelines found under the Certification Marks section of this website.

 

How can I access the Certified Pasturefed suite of certification marks?

Once you have achieved Certified Pasturefed status you can log into this site using your username and password and you will be able to access the suite of marks from your account dashboard.

A set of marks are available for general viewing from the Certification Marks section of the site.

There are a number of files associated with the certification marks:

  • Full colour
  • Mono
  • Reverse

Usage of the certification marks must be in line with the Usage Guidelines for the Certified Pasturefed Marks as well as the Rules Governing the Use of the Certified Pasturefed Suite of Certification Marks.

 

Are there limitations on how I use the certification marks?

Yes. 

Usage of the certification marks must be in line with the Usage Guidelines for the Certified Pasturefed Marks as well as the Rules Governing the Use of the Certified Pasturefed Suite of Certification Marks.

Both of these documents are available under the Certification Marks section of this website.

 

×