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Parks agency faulted for TB-positive cow

Parks Canada isn’t seriously addressing the bovine tuberculosis situation in Riding Mountain National Park’s wildlife and the government’s “selective” culling just isn’t working, Manitoba’s cattle producers say.

The Manitoba Cattle Producers Association called on the federal parks department Friday to improve its bovine TB eradication efforts after a beef cow on a farm 10 km outside the park was confirmed positive for the disease.

The national park, just south of Dauphin, is under Parks Canada jurisdiction “and this problem has been around in that area for more than 30 years,” MCPA president Martin Unrau said in a release Friday.

The five-year-old cow, now destroyed, was in a herd of 240 cattle in what’s called the RMEA, or Riding Mountain eradication area, where wildlife are known to carry the disease. Manitoba’s last case of bovine TB in cattle was in early 2004.

All susceptible animals in the herd where the new case was confirmed May 1 will now be destroyed, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency said in a release Thursday.

Although the latest TB case isn’t expected to affect Manitoba’s bovine TB-free status, nor its access to export markets, the MCPA said it remains a “serious setback” for RMEA cattle producers who are already financially burdened, on top of having to continually gather their herds for regular TB testing for almost the past 20 years.

“Without improved eradication efforts, the continued risk to livestock producers and wildlife in the area will only increase,” the MCPA wrote.

The MCPA said Parks Canada has also ignored recommendations from the multi-agency TB Task Group, which was set up in 2000 to co-ordinate a program to rid the RMEA ecosystem of bovine TB.

Bovine TB poses no health threat to the general public, CFIA said, due to safeguards in place in the food safety system. The disease affects mainly ruminants, including cattle bison, goats, sheep, elk and deer, but can affect all types of mammals, humans included.

Human infection with bovine TB would come from “prolonged, close contact” with an infected animal or from consuming an infected cow’s unpasteurized milk, CFIA said.

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