“What it will do is give us a huge step forward in determining whether one-half of Canada is still clean.”
– BETTY GREEN
A program to monitor livestock shipments between Eastern and Western Canada is a step closer toward operating around the clock.
Ottawa last week announced up to $2 million to help track animal movements at a station near West Hawk Lake on the Manitoba-Ontario border.
The money, matched by the livestock industry, could turn a pilot project, currently operating under limited hours, into a 24/7 monitoring system later this summer.
Its purpose is to respond to a foreign animal disease outbreak and control its east-west spread by tracking livestock shipments through West Hawk Lake.
“The main benefit is that we have data in hand if we ever face a highly contagious foreign animal disease outbreak, for example, foot-and-mouth,” said Betty Green, who represents cattle producers on a West Hawk Lake Zoning Initiative oversight committee.
“It would tell us if any of the animals from the infected area had indeed crossed. And if they had, it would tell us exactly where they had been unloaded.”
The project gives authorities the ability to divide Canada into two sectors and shut off traffic if necessary to prevent an FAD spread, said Green, a cattle producer from Fisher Branch.
“Canada would in effect be zoned into two parts, allowing us to concentrate efforts into controlling the disease in the area where it’s confirmed to be and in any area where it may have been transmitted to,” she said.
“What it will do is give us a huge step forward in determining whether one-half of Canada is still clean. And if it is, then we can immediately start to approach our trading partners to recognize that half of Canada is disease free.”
West Hawk Lake is considered an ideal location because it is a “choke point” on the only major highway and railway line connecting the East and the West.
Under the pilot project, livestock truckers passing through are required to provide information on the origin of their shipments, their destination and the animals transported.
Green said the volume of livestock shipments through West Hawk Lake varies greatly. Some days no trucks pass through. Other times, particularly in summer, it sees a steady stream of vehicles carrying cattle, hogs, sheep and horses.
Employees sometimes even see exotic menageries travelling with circuses. A female employee once reported being spat at by a camel, Green said. [email protected]