Sheep farmers launch bluetongue insurance

The Canadian Sheep Federation and federal government have rolled out a new insurance program for sheep farmers to better manage risk in case of an outbreak of bluetongue.

The CSF said its bluetongue insurance program, officially rolled out Monday, can provide Canada’s 11,000-plus sheep farmers with “affordable” coverage for losses due to bluetongue, an insect-borne viral disease of sheep.

The federation said in a release Monday that the insurance program’s development was driven by recent import policy changes introduced by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency, coupled with the discovery of bluetongue in the U.K. and several northern European countries.

Bluetongue insurance coverage will cost 0.55 to 1.78 per cent of the sum insured, depending on the province, CSF said.

The program is expected to cover participating producers for mortalities, consequential loss (drugs, treatment materials, vet bills, diagnostic fees, euthanasia) and business interruption (extra feeding and management costs, loss of productive capability).

“We hope that bluetongue disease does not affect Canada’s sheep industry, but if it does, this new program will ensure that sheep farmers will have a tool that will allow us to recover our losses,” said Murray Emke, an Elmwood, Ont. sheep farmer and president of the Canadian Sheep Breeders’ Association, in a CSF release.

The insurance for this program is provided by the Echelon General Insurance Co., in conjunction with partners Sylvite Financial Services and administrative broker The Precept Group, CSF said.

This program is voluntary and will supplement but not replace funding provided to sheep farmers through government agricultural assistance programs, CSF noted. Coverage for the 2008 season was to be available starting last month.

The program was developed by CSF working with the federal Private Sector Risk Management Partnerships (PSRMP) program, under which Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada provides financial and technical help to producer organizations for new agricultural risk management projects.

Northward movement

CSF said it began working toward such coverage after CFIA announced plans in July 2006 to revise its bluetongue policy, based on new risk analysis, to end the bluetongue-related control measures for sheep, cattle and other ruminants imported from the U.S.

Out of 25 known bluetongue serotypes, the CSF said, just five occur in North America. Another serotype, which caused an outbreak in Europe in August 2006, had never been reported in Europe before and is believed to be “sub-Saharan” in lineage, though it’s not yet known for sure where that serotype came from or how it got into Europe.

The CSF also cited a recent article on climate change that suggests the “unprecedented” spread of bluetongue in Europe is due to changes in that continent’s climate, allowing the virus to become more persistent in overwintering.

The CSF said its policy has been designed so producers who have coverage, and whose flocks have been diagnosed with any of the 25 serotypes, will get compensation above and beyond CFIA compensation.

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