CFIA rules smooth path for AI facilities

Canada’s pig genetics industry is expecting big savings on time and money thanks to new rules on disease testing and isolation

Boars going into a domestic-use semen centre won’t have to clear the same hurdles now that changes on disease testing and isolation periods have come into effect.

Why it matters: Swine artificial insemination facilities that cater to domestic customers say new CFIA rules will reduce replacement times by weeks and save money due to less testing.

Starting Oct 1, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) no longer required animals coming into a domestic-use centre to be tested for TGE (transmissible gastroenteritis) during farm pre-entry and isolation.

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Likewise, animals now have to spend only 14 days in isolation before entering the resident herd rather than 30, although a veterinarian must examine the animal during that isolation to confirm there are no clinical signs of infectious disease.

The removal of TGE testing has been a perennial ask of genetics companies and their veterinarians, according to Dr. Blaine Tully of Swine Health Professionals.

“The direct impact will be felt in a positive way by the genetic companies that produce the replacement sire stock,” he said. “Commercial producers won’t really directly be impacted whatsoever because they buy the semen from a stud that kind of does a lot of these things behind the scenes for them.”

The “big picture,” however, might come with some longer-term benefits to the general swine sector, with fewer regulatory hoops on the production of semen, he noted.

“It will likely facilitate more rapid genetic improvements as we can kind of move more boars through boar studs and roll inventory more quickly, bringing in newer genetics and potentially higher-performing animals,” he said.

Tully says the sector has seen draft changes to the CFIA’s Accredited Veterinarian’s Manual on artificial insemination for the last “five to 10 years, at least,” with ongoing requests for feedback from swine veterinarians.

The length of the process made the CFIA’s late-September announcement of the changes a pleasant surprise, he noted.

“It’s been kind of a long time coming and we really, I think, look forward to doing business differently with farms now,” he added.

The changes do not pose more health risks to boars or the swine industry at large, Tully also said. While TGE can cause abortions and vomiting and diarrhea at all ages leading to high mortality in young piglets, especially in naive herds, Tully says the risk of that disease has also declined.

“Things have changed over the years that the swine sectors have grown and evolved and that disease, I would say, is not that relevant or prevalent any more as far as being a risk to customers of boar studs that are buying semen,” he said.

The previous rules had been in place since before Tully started his practice in 2001, he noted.

Animals will also no longer need to be treated for leptospirosis during isolation, the CFIA has said. While rarely a threat to older or non-pregnant pigs, the infection is associated with reproductive issues such as still-births, abortions and mortality or significant health problems such as fever or lack of growth or weight gain in young piglets.

The changes will only impact centres collecting semen for domestic use. Centres that export semen still have to run the gamut of TGE and leptospirosis tests, as well as have a negative test result on brucellosis, a bacterial infection linked with reproductive issues, within 30 days prior to coming into the facility.

Tully says four out of Manitoba’s estimated six artificial insemination facilities are domestic use only. Of those, one facility is more of an integrator.

“They’re really going to realize some benefits and changes,” he said.

Wally Driedger, quality assurance manager of swine genetics company DNA Genetics, says the company is still assessing what exactly their changed operations will look like under the new rules, although he expects animal replacement turnaround will speed up by weeks at least.

“It will reduce the amount of time that we need to be housing (animals) in different quarantine facilities before they go into customer units,” he said.

The domestic centre changes have also been compounded by a reduced federal quarantine requirement, he noted, since his company commonly brings boars up from the U.S. for their Canadian operations.

Typically, he said, their facilities would run an eight- to nine-week federal quarantine for those boars.

“This is so new. We’re really working with our vets and our customers on exactly how the timelines are all going to work,” he said.

Fewer testing requirements will also lower the company’s costs, Driedger noted.

The changes to domestic-use test requirements are “absolutely fantastic,” he said.

“It helps us out a lot. It does reduce the time and it’s going to be very helpful for everybody,” he said. “There’s nobody that I have talked to yet who had said that it’s not a big deal.”

The company caters to customers across Canada.

About the author

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Alexis Stockford

Alexis Stockford is a journalist and photographer with the Manitoba Co-operator. She previously reported with the Morden Times and was news editor of  campus newspaper, The Omega, at Thompson Rivers University in Kamloops, BC. She grew up on a mixed farm near Miami, Man.

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