The pork industry has caught up with other sectors of Canadian agriculture in the development of traceability systems, says Clare Schlegel.
“We’re as advanced as any commodity in Canada,” says the Ontario pig farmer and chairman of the Canadian Pork Council’s ID & Traceability Working Committee.
The federal and provincial governments have agreed to have a national livestock traceability system in place by 2011. Until recently, the cattle industry has been the traceability leader with a tagging system that can track the movement of animals from the farm of origin to the slaughter plant. Sheep and bison producers piggyback on that system.
In an interview, Schlegel says the pork sector has developed a system that collects data on both individual animals and herd movements. Full details are available on its website www.pigtrace.ca
that was launched in September.
During 2009, the pork council got agreement on standardized traceability tags and is aiming to start the new year with early adoption of its pig movement reporting mechanism. By mid year, it hopes to have ironed out the wrinkles in movement reporting so that it covers virtually all the industry.
Truckers and packers, as well as farmers, have a role to play in supplying movement information to a national pig traceability database that is being administered by Quebec-based Agri-Traceability Inc. The system has a premise identification feature that already contains the location and other data on 90 per cent to 95 per cent of all pig farms in Canada, Schlegel said. The remainder consists of small operations that ship a few animals to slaughter plants.
TATOOS VERSUS TAGS
Pigs, unlike other livestock, tend to move in groups, Schlegel says. Pigs going from weaner to feeder facilities only require a common tattoo for identification as long as they’re not commingled with pigs from other farms in the process. Cull sows and boars going to market as well as breeding pigs and any headed to destinations outside the usual supply chain need to have eartags approved by the Canadian Pork Council.
Schlegel says the industry started moving toward a national traceability system in 2005-06 with the goal of enabling health officials to track pigs from a packing plant back to their farm of origin. The first steps were registering hog farms and developing a national tattoo system. In 2007, the preliminary work on a hog-reporting system began.
Schlegel says the eartags not only facilitate traceability, they’re also excellent management tools that allow farmers to record the animal’s health and growth rate. Pigs shipped to the United States for immediate slaughter only require a tattoo while feeder pigs need to have the approved tags.