Breeders irked by plan to revoke pedigree act

A federal government proposal to repeal the Animal Pedigree Act has received two thumbs down from animal breeders.

Producers discussed the 105-year-old act during the Canadian Livestock Records Corporation annual meeting in Calgary April 5.

A near unanimous vote opposed revoking the act, which was last amended in 1988.

The livestock records corporation administers the pedigree act and could also be in jeopardy if the act was revoked.

The private, not for profit organization handles the registration of purebred animals from 50 species, including bison, beef cattle, hogs, sheep, goats, foxes, donkeys, mules and dogs.

About 100,000 animals were registered last year.

The corporation also maintains records for purebred animals that aren’t handled by an incorporated association.

As well, it handles embryo certificates and changes of ownership for registered animals and embryos, charging a fee for every transaction.

Agriculture Canada provided few details for the change, but John Ross, director of the department’s animal industry division, said the government’s overall approach is to cut costs and get out of the business of doing business.

“There is a philosophy that perhaps the government of Canada is involved in too many things,” he said.

The government is reviewing various acts and is trying to decide if it should still oversee the administration of livestock pedigrees.

He said the act may be too restrictive for modern times and technology.

Ross also said it is not a good use of government time to review annual reports, bylaw changes and financial statements of every association.

Money spent administering the Animal Pedigree Act takes away funds from other projects such as animal health, welfare and biotechnology, he added.

“Finding staff is not the problem,” he said. “Finding the budget to pay them is.”

Ross said the act costs $200,000 per year to administer.

David Bailey of Genome Alberta and a registered Percheron breeder said the money is well spent because the purebred livestock sector generates $250 million in imports and exports.

“For $200,000, we have a system that is working beautifully,” he said.

Those at the meeting argued they need a government sanctioned pedigree to give their organizations credibility in domestic and international markets.

Government certification pedigrees are proven records of bloodlines and give buyers assurances of an animal’s family tree.

Sheep breeder and exporter Peggy Newman defended the status quo. “We are the envy of the whole world for our pedigrees. If it is not broken, don’t fix it,” she said.

Breed association representatives said government certified pedigrees are one way to manage genetic improvement, although Ross said others have managed without an act to govern their activities.

Hog and poultry breeders and groups such as Beefbooster have successfully kept records and made improvements without an umbrella type act.

Others said small associations would either not be able to continue or divide into small, less credible splinter groups without an act.

Many of the smaller organizations are volunteer run and aren’t able to keep records and performance information in the same way that a livestock record corporation does.

The breed associations are incorporated under the act, but Ross said they could register under other legislation or follow voluntary rules if the act was changed.

Ross said his department wants to meet with groups before a decision is made, even though he agreed there is considerable opposition from breeders to getting rid of the act.

The government is expected to meet with dairy associations later this month, and Ross promised further meetings could be held.

“We are at the point of harvesting ideas, not telling you what we think,” said Ross.

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