The Canadian Cattlemen’s Association says a beef breeding cow found with mad cow disease on an Alberta farm was born in the province at a different farm. Association spokesman John Masswohl says the Canadian Food Inspection Agency identified the birth farm. It is the first case reported since 2011. South Korea announced it was banning Canadian beef.
“They’ve got the birth farm, which is important,” Masswohl said. “I understand that everything is in Alberta.”
The Canadian food agency has not told the beef industry when the cow was born or how many other animals from the same herd may have consumed the same feed in their first year of life, he said.
Masswohl said the CFIA gleaned the information from a cattle identification tag that producers are required to attach to a cow’s ear. The details are stored in a database run by the non-profit Canadian Cattle Identification Agency.
“The CFIA has the right by regulation to access the CCIA databases to help in their investigation,” Masswohl said. “That tag was in there, which enabled them to get back to the birth farm, and will also allow them to identify other animals from that same farm.”
Alberta Agriculture said including a cow’s date of birth on radio frequency information tags has been mandatory in the province since Jan. 1, 2009. It was voluntary before then. The Canadian government has been bolstering the tag identification system since an outbreak of bovine spongiform encephalopathy in 2003 that devastated Canada’s beef industry.
About 40 markets immediately closed their borders to Canadian cattle and beef products. Most of those markets have since reopened. The tags are designed to help contain and eradicate animal disease by making it easier to trace individual livestock animals from birth to death.
On this occasion South Korea was the first country to suspend imports of Canadian beef. Last year, Canadian producers sold 25.8 million dollars worth of beef products to South Korea out of total beef exports of 1.9bn.
Masswohl said the cattle industry hopes the trace investigation will be quick.
“The protocol that we have with South Korea entitles them to suspend their import clearances until Canada provides them with the information to assure them that our beef is safe.We are confident that Canada can provide that assurance”, underlined Masswohl.
Canadian Federal Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz said he is “not at all” worried that other countries would ban Canadian beef.
“We have controlled risk status, which means you can have up to 12 outbreaks in any calendar year,” Ritz said. “We’ve stayed well below that.”
The World Organization for Animal Health gave Canada a “controlled risk” status after mad cow disease was discovered in 2011 in a Canadian cow.