Livestock transport rules questioned

Beef producers say new rules could increase injuries and sickness

OTTAWA — Proposed changes to Canada’s livestock transportation regulations have hit a sour note with some beef producers.

The new animal transport regulations under the Health of Animals Act require shorter travel times and rest periods for cattle. The Canadian Cattlemen’s Association questioned whether some of the new rules are practical.

Ontario feedlot owner Tom Wilson buys backgrounded calves from Manitoba, a 40-hour journey. The only place to stop is Thunder Bay, Ont.

More frequent stops could do more harm than good, he said in an interview at the CCA annual meeting March 8-10 in Ottawa.

“The regulations say they have to be loaded and unloaded. I will end up with more sickness,” he said.

“I guarantee you if every load has to be unloaded, we definitely will have more injuries,” he said.

There has been criticism over the way culled dairy cattle are handled. Many are frail and subject to injuries or fall down during transport.

“A lot of those should be euth-anized because they are unfit to travel,” Wilson said.

Kirk Jackson of the Quebec Beef Producers Federation supports the CCA’s opinions and argued the regulations might not address animal welfare, especially among young animals.

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“When animals are in the rest area they spend most of the time wandering around bawling for mom. They don’t usually eat or drink,” he said.

“We ask that you do what is scientific and what is truly better for the animals and not so much by appearance.”

Research is being commissioned next year to see how cattle react to loading and unloading, said Andrea Brocklebank of the Beef Cattle Research Council.

Cattle will also be assessed to see if they eat, drink and rest during those periods.

The regulations will be tested to learn if they have improved animal welfare.

“Have we made a measurable improvement or it is symbolic?” she said.

Past work by Agriculture Canada followed all classes of cattle on lengthy journeys and found few problems and almost no mortalities.

“It clearly showed our highest risk cattle are feeder calves and we knew that, but it was still pretty positive,” said Brocklebank.

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The regulations were published and open for public comment until Feb. 15. An unprecedented 12,500 replies were received, said Dr. Debbie Barr of the Canadian Food Inspection Agency.

There is an opportunity to make revisions to the draft regulations and she promised the group that Canada is not following the European Union’s lead where shorter transports are required.

The proposed regulations are posted on the CFIA website.

They were designed for average, healthy animals and how they may be affected by hunger, thirst and fatigue during transport. These requirements were based on available data regarding species and classes of animals, said the website.

Animals must be rested for eight hours with access to feed and water. They must have room to lie down in the rest area. They may be unloaded or may be attended to on a suitably equipped conveyance that is well ventilated. On board, animals must have a clean, dry environment, bedding and secure footings.

Any compromised animal of any species, any size, any age, any sex, any breed must be rested after 12 hours travel time.

Pigs and horses are allowed to travel for 28 hours and all others may go for 36 hours.

Until this regulation is passed, beef cattle could travel for up to 52 hours.

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