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Three Ranchers Face Court Over TB Testing

Ranchers at odds with Canadian Food Inspection Agency over testing for bovine tuberculosis are continuing to fight their cases in court.

Clanwilliam-area rancher Nick Synchyshyn will face trial May 16 on three charges under the Health of Animals Act related to an incident that occurred on Nov. 17, 2009.

Synchyshyn, who was fined $3,000 earlier this year over a previous incident, faces a new charge related to the sale of 40 calves in 2009 without a permit while he was under a quarantine order. The calves ended up in feedlots in Quebec, Alberta and Manitoba.

“They’re trying to take me down and make this look bigger than it is,” Synchyshyn said outside a Brandon courtroom last week following a pre-trial hearing. “Everything in the area was tested the year before, and they found nothing.”

Rodney Checkowski, a rancher from Rossburn whose tangles with the CFIA go back over two decades, also faces trial on March 2 on two new charges for failing to comply with a testing order. Checkowski, who no longer owns cattle, has already been convicted and fined $1,500 over a previous incident.

Citing the cost of a lawyer, both men said they will represent themselves in court.

Also charged is Ron Chotka, an elk and bison rancher from McCreary, for refusing to cooperate with a TB-testing order from May of 2010.

Chotka, who owns about 100 head of elk and 50 bison, said that he has been at odds with the agency for two years over the condition of his corrals.

“My facilities weren’t up to snuff. Last time, a guy came within an inch of getting killed by a big buffalo. So, instead of making it hard on people and animals, I decided to redo the whole system,” said Chotka. “I told them, when it’s ready, I’ll phone you.”

However, he said efforts to upgrade his facilities were hampered by bad weather, flooding and other commitments. He received a letter from the CFIA requiring him to test his herd in November of 2009, but did not respond. His trial date has not been set.

A small number of producers in the TB-management zone sur rounding Riding Mountain National Park are engaged in a long-standing dispute over the testing program. Some have complained their herd’s health is compromised by the extended testing and quarantines.

Efforts by the Manitoba Beef Producers to obtain compensation for producers to cover the extra work and lost marketing opportunities have so far been unsuccessful.

However, the Manitoba government has offered free lab services and post-mortem testing to producers in the area in an effort to diagnose some of the herd health issues, but producers have not accepted the offer.

daniel. winters @

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