Canada is meeting its national targets for BSE testing, but Saskatchewan continues to lag behind.
Saskatchewan Cattlemen’s Association chief executive officer Ryder Lee said that hurts the country’s goal to become a negligible risk country rather than controlled risk.
“Our goal last year as a province was 7,500 head and we made 1,500 head,” he told the SCA District 5 meeting in Stenen.
“So when we go to tell them we think we should be negligible risk, we’re missing a part of our credibility there.”
The province has struggled for a while to meet its testing goals after the initial impact of BSE 15 years ago, and calls have repeatedly gone out to producers to test more animals.
The surveillance program relies on producers to submit samples from diseased, down, dead or dying cattle, also known as 4D animals.
The Canadian Food Inspection Agency has a national target to test 30,000 cattle over 30 months of age and is well aware of the decline in sample numbers.
In an emailed statement, the agency said it is working with provinces and industry through CanSurvBSE to address the problem.
“All stakeholders involved in the CanSurvBSE work came to a conclusion that there are non-financial considerations influencing the farmers’ decision to participate in the program when discovering a 4D animal in the herd,” the agency said.
CFIA said producers are mostly aware of the program and are interested in finding out why they might have a 4D animal. Some, however, are not interested in participating in programs or aren’t aware of the surveillance program’s importance to the beef sector.
“A priority of the CanSurvBSE work is to increase awareness amongst key stakeholders of the importance of submitting samples,” CFIA said.
“The recent BSE surveillance results show a positive correlation between the number of samples submitted and awareness efforts.”
Lee said if every Saskatchewan producer tested just one animal the target would be far surpassed. However, the payment of $75 to a producer and $100 to the veterinarian for doing the work is often seen as not worth the effort.
However, he said it’s up to producers to protect their industry.
Healthy animals that go into the food chain aren’t considered high risk so there is no reason to test them.
He said there are other places where sampling could be done, such as pet food plants.
“We’re looking at other avenues that can help us build those numbers as best that we can,” he said.
In 2017, there were 29,845 samples submitted with no positive results.
To the end of September 2018, producers had submitted 21,730 samples and none tested positive.