Volume 2 Issue 6 | March 15, 2010

In This Issue ...


Debate on production management tools in House of Commons

The Harper government is back in session following prorogation and that means Private Members’ Business is front and centre once again. Private Members’ Business is not affected by prorogation, which means everything picks up where it left off in December.

Bev Shipley, MP for Lambton-Kent-Middlesex, had a motion scheduled for the first hour of debate on Friday, March 12. Avid readers of CCA Action News will recall the following text from the January 18 edition:

M-460 — November 2, 2009 — Mr. Shipley (Lambton—Kent—Middlesex) — That, in the opinion of the House, the government should ensure that production management tools available to Canadian farmers are similar to those of other national jurisdictions by considering equivalent scientific research and agricultural regulatory approval processes by Health Canada, the Pest Management Regulatory Agency, and the Canadian Food Inspection Agency.

Non-Cabinet Members of Parliament are put on a list after an election. Slowly, they each take a turn introducing a bill or motion of importance to them. Since the election in late 2008, only about 60 MPs on the list have had this chance. This shows how rare it is to get the chance to introduce an issue of personal importance in the House of Commons. Seeing an MP succeed in bringing an important cattle producer issue before the House as Private Members’ Business is a rare occurrence and definitely one worth noting.

This is a votable motion, so the second round of debate will likely take place later in April. In the meantime, let your MP know of any experiences you have with inputs like endectocide, herbicide or other regulated products costing you more than in the U.S. Also let them know when you cannot get a product that is available south of the border. Improving Canada’s regulatory processes should help to improve access to new products and to keep prices competitive with those in the U. S.

Federal Budget 2010 is positive for Canada’s cattle producers

The Federal Budget 2010 included $25 million to compensate for the cost of collecting and disposing of specified risk materials or SRM. The CCA congratulates the Government of Canada for delivering this much-needed compensation.

In 2007, the Government implemented costly new regulations intended to expedite the elimination of BSE in Canada. The CCA fully supports that objective, but has always wanted Canadian and U.S. regulatory costs in this area to remain harmonized. However, the U.S. regulation implemented in 2009 is not as costly as the Canadian approach put in place two years earlier.

A recent survey by the Canadian Meat Council showed the average volume of SRM for each over thirty month (OTM) head of cattle in Canada in a federally inspected slaughter facility is 58 kilograms. That equates to about 10 per cent of the weight of the animal that has to be disposed of.

In the hundreds of small provincially inspected facilities across Canada, the amount of SRM waste is easily double that of the federal facilities on a per animal basis -- somewhere in the range of 20 per cent to 25 per cent of the weight of the animal. Without the presence of federal inspectors, renderers treat all waste that these small abattoirs produce as SRM. 

In the U.S. however, less material is considered as SRM and they have collection and treatment options not allowed in Canada. In the U.S., each OTM animal produces about one pound (0.45 kg) of SRM material for disposal. To re-cap: 58 kg of disposable SRM material per OTM animal in a Canadian federal facility versus 0.45 kg in a U.S. facility. This equates to a nearly $32 per head cost disadvantage to kill an OTM animal in a Canadian federally inspected facility versus the U.S.

U.S. companies are able to use that cost advantage to outbid Canadian packers for the animals.  Without the compensation included in Federal Budget 2010, the ability to continue killing OTM cattle in Canada would be in jeopardy.

We’ve already seen consequences in every province either with packers closing their doors completely or changing their policy regarding cows. The compensation in the Federal Budget should help to reverse this trend.

Our ultimate objective is to return Canadian and U.S. SRM disposal regulations to a harmonized state. The CCA is pleased that Federal Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz has instructed his officials to work towards this objective and we are participating in a government/industry working group. 

Unfortunately, it is clear that changes will not come quickly and we are mindful that the disposal cost compensation in the Budget is for one year only. The CCA hopes the SRM working group will be able to make sufficient progress so that further compensation does not need to be requested next year. 

In terms of operationalizing the OTM compensation, the CCA is discussing details with government officials to ensure that it achieves the objective of maintaining slaughter in Canada while clearly providing a benefit to cattle producers. This will be discussed further at the March 16-17 Beef Value Chain Roundtable meeting so that an agreed industry recommendation can be made to the Minister.

We will report on our progress in a future edition of CCA Action News.


Australia reopens - or does it?

Australia’s announcement that it would lift its blanket ban on imports of beef from countries with controlled risk status for BSE touched off a political backlash in that country causing their federal government to backtrack recently. Before any imports of beef can take place, Biosecurity Australia must conduct an import risk analysis (IRA) on beef imports destined for down under.

The move could potentially add two years to the already cumbersome import protocol process put in place to coincide with the new rules that came into effect March 1. This puts Australia right back into the pack with all the other countries that are putting their own trade protectionist interests ahead of science and internationally recognized trade rules. 

Announced recently in Canberra by Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry Minister Tony Burke, an IRA would apply to fresh beef, chilled or frozen, from countries other than New Zealand. Although the previously announced policy remains in place, Burke said the move means the assessment of the risks of such imports would have “a higher level of formality.”

An IRA would be in addition to Australia’s new import protocols effective March 1, which require a risk assessment consistent with the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE) methodology to be undertaken by Food Standards Australia New Zealand (FSANZ) and reviewed by the Australian BSE Food Safety Assessment Committee.

The jury is still out on what Australia’s lifting of its ban means for the Canadian beef cattle industry. The commercial value of exports to Australia has been small as Canada is not a big exporter to Australia.

The symbolic value in Australia adhering to the OIE position would place Canada in a stronger position in market access negotiations in the region and around the world.


High flying loonie looking likely

In what’s becoming a familiar refrain among economists, CIBC World Markets Inc. says the loonie could fly above par with the greenback this year. Among perhaps the most bullish forecasts to be released yet, the CIBC expects the Canadian dollar to push past parity as early as July, following an expected interest rate hike by the Bank of Canada (BoC).

According to the CIBC’s currency forecast, the loonie will hit $1.02 versus the U.S. dollar by September before slipping back to 97 cents by year end.

The Canadian dollar has gained several cents in the recent weeks as the market began to firm up expectations of an interest rate hike in July, noted CIBC Chief Economist Avery Shenfeld.

“If as we expect, the Bank is out in front of the U.S. Federal Reserve by a couple of quarters, a higher Canadian dollar will help tighten monetary conditions. It’s easy to see the Canadian dollar running a few cents through parity after the first hike,” he said.

The CIBC noted at a recent policy meeting the BoC did not extend its commitment not to raise rates. This puts the BoC between a rock and a hard place, analyst Zafar Bhatti wrote in the CIBC’s latest Global Positioning Strategy report.

“If they signal rates are going to rise, the Canadian dollar will make a run for parity or stronger. The damage to exporters in this scenario could seriously hinder Canada’s economic recovery. However, if they hesitate on the interest rate front, the BoC will appear soft on inflation which also could be damaging to the long term health of the economy,” Bhatti noted.

Other market forces, including increasing global demand for commodities like oil, minerals and fertilizer, and investor demand for Canada, could propel the Canadian dollar past parity with the U.S. dollar, the CIBC said.


Detecting Johne’s Disease in wildlife and the environment

Project Title:
Mycobacterium avium paratuberculosis (Johne’s Disease) Infections of Cow-Calf Herds: Environmental and Wildlife Reservoirs of Infection (5.31)

Project Leader: Dr. John Campbell; Western College of Veterinary Medicine

Background: Johne’s disease is caused by a bacterium called Mycobacterium avium subspecies paratuberculosis (or MAP, for short). The intestinal tract of very young calves is believed to be particularly susceptible to MAP infection, but symptoms of Johne’s disease often do not develop until cattle are mature. In the meantime, MAP hides and multiplies in the intestinal lining. This damages the intestinal cells that absorb nutrients. As a result, infected cows develop chronic diarrhea, lose weight, get thin, and are often culled early. Infected cows shed MAP into milk and the environment when damaged intestinal cells rupture. This exposes the next generation of susceptible baby calves to contaminated udders, colostrums, milk, straw, water and feed.

There is no effective vaccine, treatment or diagnostic tests for early stages of infection. This makes Johne’s disease very difficult to eradicate once it has entered a herd. Besides being a production limiting disease, similarities between the symptoms of Johne’s disease and Crohn’s disease has led some to speculate that MAP may also be a human pathogen. A better understanding of how to effectively diagnose MAP in herds, factors that influence MAP transmission among herds, and how long MAP remains viable in the environment would help to control Johne’s disease more effectively.

Objectives: These researchers carried out two preliminary experiments to determine:

  1. Whether serum ELISA or environmental tests detect Johne’s disease as effectively as fecal culture;
  2. If environmental, wildlife and water sources are likely reservoirs for MAP, and
  3. How long MAP persists in the environment.

What they did: These researchers studied beef herds that were known to have active cases of Johne’s disease in the past two years, based on veterinary diagnosis and laboratory confirmation. The first study used six herds that each had at least 100 cattle two years of age or older. Pooled fecal samples were collected (manure samples from five animals in each pool) from the entire mature herd and cultured for MAP. Individual blood samples were collected for MAP ELISA tests. Samples from the environment (calving and feeding areas, dugouts, livestock waterers, ditches and streams), and other livestock and wildlife (wild birds and poultry, rodents, snails, dogs, cats, horses, sheep, rabbits, deer, elk, and antelope) were collected on and around each farm every three months for a year.

In the second study, MAP positive sites on another Johne’s infected farm were sampled and cultured every month to determine how long MAP survived in the environment.

What they learned:
Alternative Johne’s disease tests: Not all testing methods consistently detected Johne’s disease, even though all six of the herds used in the first project were known to be infected. Pooled fecal cultures detected four MAP-positive herds, the blood ELISA detected two MAP-positive herds, and environmental samples detected two MAP-positive herds. Only the herd with the highest prevalence of Johne’s disease (over 50 per cent positive fecal cultures) tested positive using all three test methods (fecal, serum and environmental). The three tests gave less consistent results in the five herds with a lower prevalence of Johne’s disease. One herd was positive for two test methods, three herds were positive for only one test, and one herd was negative for all three tests. These inconsistent results emphasize how difficult it is to detect Johne’s in herds that have a very low prevalence of the disease. Pooled fecal culture is useful to identify infected herds, but does not identify which individual animals are infected. The serum ELISA test used was not sensitive enough for routine use in beef cattle. Environmental tests failed to detect most of the herds carrying a low level of Johne’s disease.

Environmental and wildlife reservoirs of MAP: Sampling each farm four times over the course of the year resulted in 268 environmental samples from calving and feeding areas and 150 water samples from dugouts, livestock waterers, ditches and streams. Of the 418 samples collected from the six farms, only two were positive for MAP; one sample was collected from a calving area in the autumn, and one was a dugout water sample collected in summer from a different farm. At present, environmental sampling is not sensitive enough to replace traditional herd testing methods to confirm presence of Johne’s disease.

None of the 431 tissue or fecal samples collected from wildlife or other farm animals were positive for MAP. This does not prove that domestic animals and wildlife cannot spread Johne’s disease in cow-calf herds, but suggests that they are not primarily responsible.

No sites remained culture positive five months after the initial positive culture. This may help to explain why very few positive environmental samples were detected on the other six farms.

What it Means: Although none of the testing approaches used was able to correctly identify every Johne’s disease infected herd in this small preliminary study, pooled fecal culture was clearly superior to both individual serum ELISA and culturing of environmental samples. Environmental contamination of MAP on Saskatchewan cow-calf farms appears to be quite limited at present. The prevalence of the disease tends to be low even in infected beef herds, and the more extensive rearing methods probably results in less environmental contamination. The cow-calf industry has an opportunity to control Johne’s disease before its prevalence increases and environmental contamination might become a greater challenge.

CCA Action News

Staff Contributors: Ryder Lee, John Masswohl, Reynold Bergen
Written, edited and compiled by: Gina Teel

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