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Monitoring Wildlife Disease Key To Protecting Livestock

“You cannot effectively find the source if you are only testing cattle.”

The Manitoba Cattle Producers Association read with interest the article on the front page of the Manitoba Co-operator April 29 edition on the issue of anaplasmosis and disease surveillance in Manitoba. However, there were vital points not covered in the article.

The CFIA’s off-hand call for producers to have MCPA lobby for disease surveillance left the impression that the MCPA is not actively involved on this issue. The MCPA has been aggressively lobbying for a surveillance program or testing of wildlife in southeast Manitoba, as well as the Lac du Bonnet area for the past two years. Both areas are still facing real challenges with this disease.

What producers and the MCPA have received instead is the insufficient response that “there is no budget.”

NOT GOOD ENOUGH

If it fits the government’s agenda, the funds are found. An example is the $7 million in the budget for nature conservancy to purchase land in order to increase the wildlife habitat. This figure is more than the province has spent on any TB-program efforts, so the response of “no budget” is simply not good enough.

In our recent meeting with Minister Blaikie, we once again lobbied for either a hunting season, or for the department to work directly with producers within the affected areas to implement a testing regime on the wildlife simultaneous to testing domestic livestock. To test the cattle population for disease prevalence without ascertaining the disease pervasiveness within wildlife is not effective because the source of the disease is not being determined.

The MCPA heard our producers two years ago – before these public information meetings were held, and before the government departments began instructing producers with what they have to do.

TESTING COSTS

Producers are absorbing the cost impacts of testing and the losses they incur. Producers are therefore also asking for possible alternatives for feeding (similar to what is available to producers in the U. S.), because what is being asked of them now is unreasonable.

Feeder and cow-calf operations function differently. There is no real way for cow-calf operations to manage what is being asked of them. Yet here too, they are given a discourse on biosecurity and budget restraints. Governments have dollars to enforce testing, but not to shoulder their responsibility.

The chief veterinary officer and the Animal Diseases Act are in place to ensure cattle producers are protected, not to function so government can enforce regulations on producers. It is time the government stepped up and looked at ways to help us, rather than pushing its own food safety and biosecurity agenda. Protect the animals being raised, instead of placing regulations and enforcement on producers.

CARRIER RISK

It’s also significant to note that it was indicated by CFIA at the public meeting in Vita that deer are usually poor carriers for anaplasmosis. However, Dr. R. Lindsay (Public Health Agency of Canada), who gave the presentation and spoke about vector life cycles, indicated that some ticks can actually live on wildlife year round. The males can then move from wildlife to livestock quite easily and therefore can carry the disease.

We need to rely on science, not opinion.

Manitoba Conservation ultimately has been charged with the responsibility of ensuring a healthy wildlife ecosystem. Yet the cattle in the Lac du Bonnet area are now looking at their third year of testing without one wildlife sample taken.

Producers could perpetually test their cattle with no real solution-oriented plan in place. CFIA is undertaking an investigation on anaplasmosis, but the source of the disease is unknown, and you cannot effectively find the source if you are only testing cattle.

FIND THE SOURCE

Everyone can agree that having a healthy domestic and wildlife population is essential in Manitoba. It can only be accomplished in a joint and co-operative effort where each stakeholder takes ownership of its responsibility to look for sources and solutions.

The MCPA will continue to lobby for the producers of Manitoba. Measures simply must be taken to have a system in place for the fall. It is time for the province to move on the recommendations we have made to both ministers of conservation and agriculture, to implement a fair and balanced surveillance program for anaplasmosis and TB in Manitoba.

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