Cattle group says CFIA traceability plan unworkable, costly

Canadian cattle producers are anxiously awaiting new federal traceability regulations after seeing potential changes earlier this year that concern them.

The chair of the Canadian Cattle Identification Agency said the proposed regulations didn’t match what the industry drafted in the Cattle Implementation Plan following a 2011 national traceability summit in Saskatoon.

Mark Elford told the Saskatchewan Stock Growers Association annual meeting that some of the things the government wants are costly and will affect the market.

“We thought we had an agreement after the summit. Obviously we didn’t,” he said after his presentation. “The regulations that we saw proposed were very different from the CIP.”

The CCIA met with the Canadian Food Inspection Agency to talk about the concerns, but no further meetings are expected until the regulations appear in Canada Gazette later this year or early 2017. The regulations would take effect in 2018.

Elford said the cattle sector is clearly committed to traceability. It was the late Saskatchewan rancher Carl Block who led the charge for animal identification in the first place.

As well, the industry has since invested more than $300 million and bought nearly 97 million ear tags as of Jan. 31, 2016.

However the big cost will come if, as the CFIA wants, cattle must be read at auction marts, said Elford.

He said $2.5 million was spent on a study to find out if this could be done.

“We found that if we choked the cattle down and ran them through in kind of a head-to-tail system we could get maybe up to as high as 85 percent read,” he said.

“That’s inaccurate at best.”

There is also the cost of shrink when restricting cattle. CCIA estimated that a one percent shrink, or 5.5 pounds on a 550 lb. steer, at $2.25 per pound, would cost $12.37 per animal.

The loss is about $66 million based on the number of cattle sold at auction in 2015. There is also the cost to auctions for reading equipment. Auctions that sell more cattle will be able to spread the cost more easily than smaller auctions, leading to preferential markets.

“When you have a regulation or legislation that changes how people market calves, (it) is just flat out wrong,” Elford said.

Another concern is the requirement to read cattle that cross provincial boundaries within the same ranch. There are operations on both sides of Saskatchewan that have cattle crossing back and forth.

“We argued hard against this,” Elford said, adding he doesn’t think industry will win.

“They say that they want to read them. You should never make a law you can’t enforce.”

Industry met with CFIA in Calgary in May to express concerns about the proposed regulations.

Elford predicts “quite a sell job” to get producers to comply if the final regulations include unworkable practices that cost more money.

“Their wish list is very expensive.”

However, he said the transition would be relatively seamless if the industry-developed CIP were followed.

Meanwhile, Elford also said a single national livestock traceability service won’t go ahead.

Canadian Agri-Traceability Services was a federal initiative an-nounced in 2012.

“We joined in co-operation with ATQ (Agri-Tracabilite Quebec) to build a multispecies database that would work across the country. Unfortunately that’s not going to happen,” Elford said.

However, he said the Canadian Livestock Tracing System at the CCIA will be ready when the new regulations appear.

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