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US feeder cattle welcome in Canada

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Well-known member
Feb 10, 2005
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Southern Manitoba
Markets stall imports of U.S. feeder cattle
this document web posted: Wednesday May 11, 2005 20050512p71

By Barbara Duckworth
Calgary bureau

A new animal health policy may allow American feeder cattle to enter Canada year round, but with poor markets on this side of the border, no imports are expected until trade normalizes.

Economics will dictate whether anyone actually imports U.S. cattle this year, said Glen Thompson, a feedlot owner in Iron Springs, Alta., and chair of the Alberta Beef Producers feeder council.

"If at some point it becomes feasible, we will. As it stands right now, we won't do it."

The new policy allows feeders from 39 U.S. states to enter Canada without testing for the blood diseases bluetongue or anaplasmosis on a year round basis, but Thompson said American animals come with additional costs.

"There are 15 pages of rules to follow. From a layman's perspective, (considering) the risk associated with importing these diseases, it is almost zero. The rules are too onerous."

Feeder heifers will likely have to be pregnancy checked to ensure they are not pregnant and importers must maintain a herd of sentinel Canadian-born feeders in a pen beside the imports. Blood tests on the control group must be run before and after the American cattle arrive to ensure no diseases were passed on.

The debate over freer movement has been ongoing between livestock producers and governments for decades, with anaplasmosis and bluetongue being the most contentious issue.

Research showing that the insects responsible for transmitting bluetongue are not viable in Canada prompted the federal government to rewrite its policy.

American cattle from 39 states are considered to have a low risk of bluetongue and will be allowed to enter Canada without blood testing. Feeder cattle from the remaining 11 states, mostly in the south, have a higher risk of the disease and are not required to be tested as long as they spend at least 60 days in a qualifying state before being imported.

Brian Jamieson of the Canadian Food Inspection Agency said a BSE case in Washington state in late 2003 put a stop to planned American imports.

"Even though we had the bluetongue and anaplasmosis policy for feeders amended to go into effect in 2004, it didn't happen because of the BSE ban," he said.

BSE forced the federal government to revise the rules to identify and prove the age of American imports.

Cattle arriving in Canada must wear U.S. Department of Agriculture ear tags to identify them as having been born in the U.S., which will make them eligible for export back to the U.S. once the border reopens.

The imports must also have a Canadian Cattle Identification Agency tag.

Proof of age will be necessary to allow them back into the U.S. and their age must be on the export certificate when going north.

Imported animals are eligible to leave Canadian feedlots for immediate slaughter, move to another approved feedlot or be re-exported to the U.S. once that market opens.

The cattle are subject to periodic feedlot inspections and comprehensive management programs are required.

Canadian feedlot operators must have a system in place that can track the movement of imported animals.

The Okanagan Valley in British Columbia is not included in the regulation because there is a possibility that bluetongue might appear there.

Okanagan area feedlots may import from qualifying states between Oct. 1 and March 31 or from Hawaii throughout the year. The insects responsible for spreading the disease are present in the Okanagan during the summer.

Breeding animals must also wait until all disease transmission research is completed.

"There are a number of animals that were due to come up here and haven't been able to," Jamieson said.

They could come during the winter when the two diseases are not a concern, but the BSE prohibition on this class is still in effect.

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