Canadian cattle ranchers struggle with TB quarantines

by MEAT+POULTRY Staff
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OTTAWA, Ontario – Thirty-four farms in Alberta, Canada, and two farms in Saskatchewan, Canada, remain under quarantine and movement control as the investigation into bovine tuberculosis cases continues, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) reported.

Ranchers in the affected region expressed their concerns about the long-term impact of the disease in testimony before the standing committee on agriculture of the Canadian Parliament. The CFIA compensates producers for animals culled by the agency, but other costs are not reimbursed. This leaves producers with cattle that they can’t sell and must continue to feed. Many ranchers are calling on the Canadian government to quickly compensate affected producers for their losses.

There are six confirmed cases of bovine TB, including the cow that inspectors in the United States confirmed to have the disease when the animal was slaughtered in the US. CFIA said the confirmed cases are from one infected herd spread across three premises in Alberta. The herd was destroyed. There are no confirmed cases of bovine TB in Saskatchewan, but the animals on quarantined farms were in contact with the infected herd, the agency explained.

“Additional staff has been brought to the region to support the investigation,” CFIA said in a recent update. “As this investigation involves a significant number of herds and requires the tracing of the movement of animals for the past five years plus testing, it is not expected to be completed for several months.”

The source of the infection is unknown, the agency said, but the strain of TB identified in the confirmed case is closely related to a strain originating from cattle in Central Mexico in 1997. In Canada, bovine TB is a reportable disease, and all cases must be reported to the CFIA.

Bovine TB is a chronic contagious disease of livestock and some other species of mammals, including humans. The disease generally results in enlarged lesions which may be found in lymph nodes of the head and thorax, lung, spleen, liver and other tissues. Infected animals can shed the bacteria in respiratory secretions and aerosols, feces, milk, and sometimes in urine, vaginal secretions or semen.

Humans can become infected through consumption of unpasteurized dairy products produced from infected animals, in addition to inhalation of infectious aerosols or direct contact through breaks in the skin, according to CFIA. However, the agency stressed that the current outbreak is not a food safety hazard and that the risk to the general population in Canada is considered to be very low due to pasteurization of milk and livestock surveillance and testing programs.

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