Transport times a major issue

Some of the proposed changes to Canada’s livestock transport regulations don’t sit well with the Livestock Markets Association of Canada.

The group represents livestock auction market owners across Canada and many of the changes proposed by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency will directly affect them.

“It will affect a lot of the way that we do business,” said LMAC past-president Scott Anderson.

“Given the Canadian landscape and geography, it’s an everyday occurrence to ship cattle long distances.”

Among the concerns is a proposal to shorten the length of time cattle can be in transport without food, water or rest. Current regulations allow cattle to be transported for 48 hours at a stretch, which can be extended to 52 hours in certain circumstances.

Proposed regulations would see that shortened to 36 hours.

Anderson said that number appears to be based on American or European regulations, where available slaughter plants and unloading stations are more widely available and/or transport distances are shorter.

“We have to realize that given Canada’s geography, (the system is) not broken, so why should we try to fix it,” said Anderson. “As market operators and order buyers and cattle dealers, it’s up to us, the person who buys the animal and ships the animal, its up to us to make sure that the cattle get off the truck at the other end healthy and safe because we aren’t going to get paid if they don’t.”

Anderson, who is co-owner of Winnipeg Livestock Sales and owner of Anderson Livestock, said Manitoba cattle destined for a federal slaughter plant have to travel west to southern Alberta, south to an American plant or east to Ontario.

Transport times can be lengthy in all cases, but are manageable within the current 48 hours allowed.

The LMAC made submissions to the CFIA during a comment period that ended in mid-February. It specifically noted the issues involved in shipping cattle out of Manitoba.

For example, Thunder Bay has the only two cattle unloading, feeding and watering facilities in northern Ontario if cattle must be offloaded for feed, water and rest between Manitoba and eastern Ontario.

Cattle going there from Winnipeg would be arrive within 10 to 12 hours of loading. A stop in Thunder Bay would be too soon into the trip, but continuing on to eastern Ontario plants without stopping would keep animals on the truck longer than 36 hours.

As well, facilities in Thunder Bay have a combined 38 pens, which might not be enough space given peak shipping periods and the need to segregate animals in some cases. Animals in transit that originate in Alberta and Saskatchewan often use the Thunder Bay facilities.

There is also increased risk in unloading and reloading cattle.

“If there’s going to be an injury, chances are the injury will occur during unloading or loading, so it’s tough to say what is best,” Anderson said.

Added the LMAC in its submission: “Travelling the most direct route through the north, there are no other locations between Thunder Bay and Ottawa to unload cattle destined to eastern Ontario or Quebec.”

The common practice under current rules for Manitoba loads heading east is for drivers to run until they need a rest break. They then stop and sleep for eight to 10 hours before continuing. Cattle reach the destination within the 48-hour time frame.

“Consideration must be given to the fact that there is not enough infrastructure and facilities to accommodate the volume of cattle moved during peak times (fall and spring) if the 36-hour regulation is implemented,” the LMAC wrote.

It further noted that Canada’s trading partners have not asked for changes to transport regulations, nor have the current ones restricted trade.

In its impact analysis statement that accompanied the proposed new regulations, the CFIA said it expects that changes to the maximum transport intervals “would contribute to increased consumer confidence in animal food products purchased.”

The LMAC took exception to this in its response, saying the CFIA stance “insinuates that an ethical decision must be taken into consideration, which may indicate that the regulator have (sic) the opinion that the producers, and the additional parties involved in the raising and transportation have no ethics when it comes to their livestock. Nothing could be further from the truth.”

Comments provided to the CFIA by all parties are now under consideration, according to Dr. Cornelius Kiley of the CFIA. A large number of responses were re-ceived.

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