Manitoba to back bovine TB tracking at slaughter

Manitoba’s government plans to put up $150,000 over five years for a new project to track and monitor for bovine tuberculosis, focused on producers in the Riding Mountain region with an eye on reducing requirements for TB testing of livestock in that region.

“Manitoba’s status as a TB-free province comes at a significant cost to a relatively small group of producers, but allows the entire industry to access valuable marketing opportunities in other countries,” provincial Agriculture Minister Ron Kostyshyn said in a release Monday. “We will help move the industry to a new approach to improve accuracy and reduce costs to beef producers.”

Bovine TB is a reportable disease in Canada and its prevalence in livestock remains extremely low. The Canadian Food Inspection Agency runs a surveillance system in federally-inspected abattoirs across the country. The most recent detected case in Canada was in a herd in British Columbia in 2011.

Livestock herds in Manitoba’s Riding Mountain eradication area (RMEA), however, are considered to be at higher risk because of the presence of the disease in wild deer and elk in the area. Wild elk are believed to be the reservoir for the disease in the park.

The RMEA and the rest of Manitoba have been able to maintain a “bovine TB-free” status since 2006, with CFIA’s ongoing surveillance. The disease hasn’t been detected in Manitoba livestock since 2008.

Producers in the RMEA, for over 12 years, have been required to regularly conduct herd-wide bovine TB testing, in which a producer’s entire herd must be gathered twice over two days. The mustering “places extra demands on producers and stress on the animals,” the province noted Monday.

Under the new project, producers in the RMEA will receive support to “conduct risk assessments, ensure all necessary information about their livestock is available to an existing traceability system and follow up on any testing results related to their herd,” the province said.

“Once filled with site- and animal-specific details, the system will link information from animal ear tags to the farm premises identification and throughout the beef processing chain,” the province said. If the presence of bovine TB is found at a slaughterhouse or abattoir as part of routine monitoring, it can then be traced back to an individual farm.

This information, the province said, will be used to monitor the prevalence of bovine TB and the location of infected animals.

A strengthened traceability system, Kostyshyn said, may also help reduce the number of on-farm bovine TB tests required in the future, which it’s hoped may help reduce costs for producers in the RMEA.

The province said it will work with Manitoba Beef Producers (MBP) to finalize details on how funding will be provided to producers. More information on how individual producers in the RMEA can access funding will be available soon, Kostyshyn said.

“This new project acknowledges the significant role that Manitoba’s beef producers have played over the past several years in trying to eradicate bovine TB in the province,” MBP’s president Heinz Reimer said in a separate release Monday.

“We look forward to receiving additional details from the Manitoba government on this important initiative,” he said. “We believe it will be beneficial to producers in the RMEA who continue to work so diligently as part of the bovine TB surveillance program.” — Network

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