TB quarantine may be shorter than expected

Increased CFIA testing could be good news for Alberta producers struggling 
with a quarantine imposed because of bovine tuberculosis

The Canadian Food Inspection Agency is doubling and potentially tripling the rate of testing on cattle herds under quarantine in the Jenner, Alta., area in coming days.

Rich Smith, executive director of Alberta Beef Producers, said CFIA officials confirmed Nov. 4 that they planned to dramatically increase the speed of testing, which could allow about 30 ranchers to get herds out of quarantine sooner.

The quarantine was imposed after one cow owned by Jenner area rancher Brad Osadczuk tested positive for bovine tuberculosis after being shipped to the United States. His herd of more than 300 cattle has been destroyed as part of CFIA’s protocol to eliminate TB from Canada.

The single infected cow was once resident in a community pasture in southeastern Alberta, so ranchers with cattle in that pasture and another one nearby were also placed in quarantine.

Those cows, about 10,000 of them, will be tested, and any that react will be slaughtered and tested further. Calves cannot be tested because results are not considered reliable until animals are one year old.

Early stage testing was at a pace of about 200 per week. Ranchers in quarantine considered that unacceptable because they are unable to move or sell animals until quarantine is lifted.

That is causing financial stress on some, and ABP has asked the provincial government to assist them.

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Last week, it responded with information on financing options, including advance payments, feeder association loans and the ability to renegotiate any loans they have with Agriculture Financial Services Corp.

“We weren’t sure whether the people with quarantine cattle would be able to get advance payments on those cattle, but the quarantine won’t affect their eligibility for those payments,” said Smith.

Ranchers will have to get price insurance on the cattle because calves will now become feeder cattle while they are kept in quarantine. That insurance will qualify them for advance payments, which are up to half the value of the cattle as a loan with $100,000 of it interest free.

Smith said the CFIA has also committed to providing more information to producers with herds in quarantine. Many at recent meetings expressed frustration with CFIA refusal to provide answers to their questions.

The TB case and resulting quarantines were much-discussed topics at the recent round of ABP zone meetings.

In Fort Macleod, members passed a motion directing ABP to make the CFIA accountable for any additional costs of reportable diseases that occur from its delays in declaring and/or determining quarantine.

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In Brooks, members passed a motion that the CFIA should use all available resources to speed up the testing process when it imposes quarantine, including tests on other species.

The Brooks meeting also saw a motion passed directing ABP to continue advocating for policies to keep Canadian herds free of bovine TB. As well, bridge financing should be available for those affected when quarantine and herd liquidation occurs.

The motion further encouraged a permanent policy to deal with such situations in the future.

At Picture Butte, ABP members directed the organization and the Canadian Cattlemen’s Association to develop a compensation program for producers with herds that are quarantined, which would cover the costs of animals destroyed as well as maintenance costs for animals during the quarantine period.

They also asked ABP to lobby the provincial government and CFIA to test wildlife populations in the area where the recent case was found. This was a reference to the large wild elk herd that roams the region, using Canadian Forces Base Suffield as its own base.

All motions made at ABP zone meetings will be forwarded to the organization’s annual meeting in December for further consideration.

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