Beef producers are still fighting transport regulations that they say will cut off trade of live cattle.
Livestock transportation will look very different when new regulations come into effect next February. The livestock sector was given one year to comply with new humane transport regulations, published by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency in February 2019.
Why it matters: With so much of Manitoba’s cattle bound for the long haul, producers say shorter transport intervals and longer rest times will affect them disproportionately.
The changes tightened time between stops and lengthened rest times. Once in effect, beef cattle may only be loaded on a trailer for 36 hours or less before being unloaded for at least eight hours, up from the five-hour stops required every 48 hours under the old rules.
The federal government argues that the changes come after “extensive consultations” with farm groups and have been welcomed by Canada’s chief veterinary officer as a means to improve animal welfare.
“These new, stronger regulations include both prescriptive and outcome-based requirements that emphasize and improve the health and well-being of the animals during the entire transportation process,” the Canadian government said in a release earlier this year. “The amendments will also increase consumer confidence, strengthen Canada’s international trade status and facilitate market access.”
The government argues that the new regulations give more specific requirements for food, water and rest to improve outcomes at the end of the line.
The beef industry, however, argues that the regulations will not improve welfare outcomes. March 2019, Manitoba Beef Producers president Tom Teichroeb argued that the more frequent stops actually increased the risk of injury to cattle by increasing the number of times animals are loaded and unloaded, and also creates new biosecurity issues if cattle from multiple shipments are rested in the same location.
The sector has also accused the federal government of ignoring its own research on the issue.
The Canadian Cattlemen’s Association has cited AAFC research, which found that 99.95 per cent of cattle in long-distance hauls arrived at their destination in good condition.
“How can you get any better than that?” Chris Lea, a producer near Manitou, said. “I don’t know what they’re gaining.”
In 2012, AAFC researchers published a study into long-haul cattle deliveries in the Journal of Animal Science. The research surveyed truckers on 6,172 cattle shipments over 400 kilometres in Alberta. The research found that 0.011 per cent of cattle were lame at their destination, 0.011 per cent were dead, and 0.022 per cent were non-ambulatory. Only five per cent of the journeys studied were over 30 hours.
“The cattle transport industry showed compliance with federal regulations and to a lesser extent with recommendations,” researchers concluded. “Findings showed extreme values and very large variability in transport conditions however, further research is needed to assess their impact on animal welfare outcomes. Delays within the journey as a result of border crossing, weather conditions, time on truck, shrink and space allowance may play an important role in improving cattle welfare during long-haul transport.”
Border transport was the most common cause of delay, followed by driver rest stops and unloading delays.
The Manitoba sector is at particular risk for an economic hit, the province’s producers and producer groups also argue. The province has comparatively few feedlots and only one federally inspected processing facility, increasing the proportion of long-haul shipments bound either farther west or to Eastern Canada that would now exceed the shorter cap.
“I’m worried that if this transportation law is enacted, we will lose all markets in Quebec,” Lea said. “That’s just another, to me, nail in the coffin for the Manitoba beef producers. We won’t have access to markets anymore.”
Carson Callum, general manager of the Manitoba Beef Producers, says they have been invited to write yet another letter on the topic as the Canadian Cattlemen’s Association spearheads efforts to get those regulations rolled back.
“This is a pretty big federal issue that also affects us provincially, so I know in the past, CCA has been very active lobbying the federal government, with help from the provincial groups, on why these new regulation changes don’t make sense,” he said.
The issue has drawn discussion again during this year’s round of district meetings among beef producers.
“Those long-distance trips are still providing good-condition cattle at their arrival and a lot of the data shows that, so we just need to keep pushing that with the federal government,” Callum said.