A dozen farms in the Riding Mountain Eradication Area (RMEA) have been put under open-ended quarantine by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency due to delays in testing for bovine tuberculosis.
“Essentially, anybody who was scheduled to test and has not yet tested is now under quarantine,” said federally appointed TB co-ordinator Allan Preston.
Preston said possible reasons for the delays could be related to the long, cold winter, reluctance on the part of some ranchers to run heavily pregnant cows through squeeze chutes, or excessively muddy conditions due to a wet spring and late thaw. So far, about 75 per cent of all livestock testing is completed.
“The CFIA is adamant that all those herds that were identified are tested,” said Preston.
“Hopefully the grass will start growing one of these days and they can kick some cattle out to pasture, but until they get the testing completed, the cattle are literally confined to the holding yards and can’t go anywhere.”
Depending on the details of the quarantine orders, the restrictions could allow for short movements to adjacent pastures, but certainly not long-distance movements by trailers, he added.
Some of the ranchers quarantined are producers who have stopped co-operating with the eradication effort.
For Rossburn-area rancher Rodney Checkowski, who was presented with a quarantine order last week by two CFIA employees under RCMP escort, it marks the fifth time in 30 years that cattle movements on his farm have been restricted.
Checkowski said he has lost his trust in the CFIA. “They bully people. They threaten them with legal action,” he added.
Last year, after being convicted and fined twice for failing to comply with a CFIA order to test his herd, Checkowski bought nine Simmental cows bred Charolais with the goal of getting back into the cattle business.
Since then, he has been forced to sell one cow because it suffered a prolapsed uterus during calving, and lost three others. One failed to recover after a caesarean delivery for a stillborn 160-pound calf and had to be euthanized, one died from possible milk fever, and another from unknown causes.
The unfortunate chain of events has left him feeling “paranoid,” but last week Checkowski said that he would comply with the CFIA’s testing order set for May 23.
“What the hell, it’s only five cows,” he said.
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Bill Mansell, a rancher near Inglis, has also been served with a quarantine order, and an assault charge related to an incident that occurred when the notice was delivered by a CFIA staff member.
“I told them last fall that there wasn’t going to be anymore torturing cows to death here. My last bull is dying so as they calve out, they’re going to market,” said Mansell last week. “Unless they are willing to use a blood sample, I’m not interested.”
The quarantine order complicates his plans to exit the cattle industry, and he’s not sure what his next move will be.
Mansell had heard of at least three others who had been quarantined, but he wasn’t sure if the higher-than-normal number of quarantine orders issued over delayed testing represented renewed resistance to TB testing or more mundane reasons.
“There’s been resistance for 30 years. We’ve just been shoved around and shoved around and we can’t get an answer from anybody, from the local ag rep right on up to the prime minister,” said Mansell.
A CFIA spokesperson wrote in an emailed response that the farm TB-testing season was set for September 2013 to May 1, 2014, and all implicated producers were provided the opportunity to arrange a suitable test date during this period.
“These quarantine orders will be lifted after testing is complete with negative results for TB,” she wrote.