Bovine TB testing will be restricted to the core area around Riding Mountain National Park, and there are plans to move away from on-farm testing altogether, producers heard at a Manitoba Beef Producers district meeting here last month.
“We are already into the 2015-16 program,” said Dr. Allan Preston, co-ordinator of the Bovine TB Management Program around Riding Mountain National Park. “We have 125 cow elk in the core elk herd (in the park). We tested 58 elk last year, so there is roughly 70 left to do this year.”
Preston said that beginning this season, there will be no further testing of cattle outside of the core area.
“Going forward the testing will be concentrated in the core area only. There are roughly 39 herds, around 3,500 to 4,000 cattle to test this winter, but there will be no buffer zone livestock testing conducted.”
Since TB surveillance began in the Riding Mountain Eradication Area (RMEA) in 2000, 14 cattle herds have been affected, and 11 white-tailed deer and seven elk have tested positive for TB.
The last bovine to test positive was found in 2008. The last white-tailed deer to test positive was found in the RM of Rosedale in 2009 and the last positive elk was found in late spring of 2014 in the core area of the national park.
The task force is specifically watching for positive test results in animals born after 2004, as this would indicate the disease is still percolating in the wild populations.
“There were some ongoing issues and concerns coming out of last year’s program we hope to address this year. We still have one beef cattle herd to be tested and one small elk herd that is under quarantine, awaiting a test as well,” said Preston.
Moving away from on-farm testing
The task force is aiming to move away from on-farm testing altogether and in its place will analyze slaughter data and conduct on-farm risk assessments.
“Eighty to 85 per cent of the cattle in the RMEA that have received Canadian Cattle Identification Agency (CCIA) tags are getting information back to us. It is a very effective way of monitoring the disease and it will become the most important method moving forward,” Preston said.
He said producers aren’t required to do on-farm risk assessments, but taking part gives the task force more evidence that it is time for testing procedures to be reduced.
“The on-farm risk assessments are a half-day assessment. We have two field staff who can go out to your farm, sit down and have a conversation with you about how to reduce the interactions between wildlife and cattle, which is very important to ensure the risk to your farm is lowered as much as possible,” said Carollyne Kehler, project co-ordinator with Manitoba Beef Producers.
“The other great thing about these on-farm assessments is that it makes you eligible for other programs that Manitoba Agriculture, Food and Rural Development (MAFRD) runs, which are the guardian dogs programs and the barrier fence program.”
Provincial eradication by 2024
The task force’s ultimate goal is to prove provincial eradication by 2024, and as long as tests remain negative, Preston predicts meeting that goal.
“We have been told by researchers that if we go back in 2019-20, repeat that core area testing of the herds and come out with negative results, we will be able to close the door on that component of the program,” Preston said.
“If these elk are negative at that point, then the wildlife surveillance will end a few years later. Hopefully by 2024 we will be able to declare that we are done. But, of course, this all hinges on negative results as we go along and all we can do is keep checking.”
At the district meetings, producers brought forward the need for an increase in the mustering fee associated with on-farm testing.
Currently, the provincial government provides a mustering fee of $6 per head and MBP contributes $1 per head. A total of $15,000 was paid through the incentive last year.
“As the co-ordinator of this initiative, I presented the same concern to the Canadian Cattlemen’s Association’s (CCA) animal health committee this past August. We have taken the same concern to the federal and provincial ministers and certainly your association has taken the same concern to the CCA on a regular basis. The message has been delivered; the response is what it is,” Preston said.
He said MAFRD conducted a related study in 2008, which determined it costs producers $18 per head to undergo on-farm testing of cattle.
MBP members put forward a resolution at the district meetings surrounding the need to increase the mustering fee.
This resolution will be carried forward to the organization’s annual general meeting in February.
[email protected] Allan Preston, co-ordinator of the Riding Mountain TB eradication project, provided Manitoba Beef Producers with an update on TB surveillance efforts.
Photo: Jennifer Paige