Livestock traceability changes delayed

Despite an extensive ear tagging system in Canada, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency found weaknesses in the system during the bovine tuberculosis investigation in Alberta last year because ownership and movement of cattle were hard to determine.  |  File photo

A strong, vigorous system remains the goal for the Canadian Food Inspection Agency to provide assurance to consumers

LONDON, Ont. — Anticipated regulatory changes to Canada’s livestock traceability system have been delayed until next year.

“The earliest we will be advancing these will be in the spring of next year so we can work out any issues that remain,” said Colleen Barnes, associate vice-president of policy and programs branch at the Canadian Food Inspection Agency.

Speaking at the Canadian Beef Industry Conference held in London, she reiterated the need for a strong system to deal with animal health implications and improved market access where trading partners request it.

“Traceability is all about what you can give your customers regarding the transparency they are looking for,” she said at the convention held Aug. 14-16.

Weaknesses appeared in the system when the CFIA investigated a case of bovine tuberculosis in southeastern Alberta last year. Ownership and movement of cattle were hard to determine.

The investigation cost $40 million in compensation to the affected producers for 11,000 destroyed animals and quarantines of about 36,000 head. There was also $20 million in added costs to the CFIA for the extra work. Better traceback could have reduced those costs to taxpayers she said.

The government started work on new regulations in 2012 and published a summary last year that contained proposals to add goats, farmed elk and deer, as well as requirements to record animal movements.

Canada has a system in which individual identification numbers are recorded from the farm of origin and retired at the end of the animal’s life. The middle part of the tracking system records movements during the animal’s life.

Movement of groups of animals into auction markets and out of community pastures is coming. No on-farm movement reporting is required.

Movement reporting requires producers to get premise identification numbers because the origin and destination of animals must be noted on documents.

“It is going to be essential in terms of reporting movement in the proposed regulations,” said Anne Brunet-Burgess of the Canadian Cattle Identification Agency, which is responsible for administering bovine, sheep and bison data.

Provinces assign premise numbers but the holder of the number needs to add it to the database account.

Those dealing with the identification agency have access to the Canadian Livestock Tracing System database, where producer accounts are held. This database allows producers to enter premise identification numbers, age verification, retirement of numbers and movement details. Movement information includes premise identification, departure and destination points, vehicle licence, number traveling as well as time and date of travel.

Movement documents will be required once the new regulations are in force.

British Columbia, Alberta and Saskatchewan require manifests to move livestock so other provinces need to adopt documents of some form that may be electronic, paper or phone calls to the CCIA.

While the regulations have not been seen, livestock industry groups have been making plans. The Cattle Implementation Plan, a committee of about 20 industry groups, is working to ensure the traceability system is efficient and effective, said Rick Wright of the group.

“Livestock traceability is coming whether you like it or not,” he said.

The group has pushed for a market neutral system that moves with the speed of commerce.

Under the new regulations, movement reporting will be mandatory for producers, marketers, transporters, feedlots and packers.

Movement recording will be the greatest challenge and CFIA has promised a three-year evaluation of the regulations and changes may be made.

Each sector has to do its part.

“Failure to meet the CFIA’s expectations may have consequences depending how far we fall short. We don’t expect we are going to fall short,” Wright said.

One compromise the committee obtained was group movement versus individual scans each time an animal moves to a new location.

The committee calculated that extra scanning of animals when they arrived at a market and before they were sold would mean more handling and could cause as much as a one percent shrinkage in body weight, said Wright.

That pencils out to a loss of $12.37 per 550 pound calf and in total it could cost $67 million in lost revenue for producers. That does not include other costs like added labour to handle additional data to provide manifests, staff training and delivering the information in a timely and accurate fashion.

“In industry’s opinion it is for the public good. The information will be used for emergency management for disease outbreak, containment or eradication and we think that at that level the government should pay for it,” Wright said.

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