COUNTRY LIFE IN BC • FEBRUARY 2019 Ranchers reassured regarding bovine TB cases

No need to worry unless the CFIA calls; international trade continues by PETER MITHAM & TOM WALKER

VERNON – The discovery of

four cases of bovine tuberculosis in a single herd in BC’s southern Interior is no cause for widespread alarm, BC Cattlemen’s Association general manager Kevin Boon told the North Okanagan Livestock Association last month. Rather, the cases prove that

Canadian Food Inspection Agency surveillance programs are working. “CFIA is on top of it,” Boon

told Country Life in BC when the first case was discovered in October during routine surveillance at an Alberta slaughterhouse. The animal did not enter the food system. Okanagan ranchers

received the same message. “What we know from this is that the surveillance system is working. They are picking them up at slaughter,” Boon said.

A technical update from the CFIA last month indicated

that three more infected animals have been identified in the original herd of about 200 animals since November. “This is not uncommon, and it is not necessarily a bad thing,” says Boon.

The identification of just

one infected animal in a herd would suggest that it had come from elsewhere; with three or four animals, the disease likely originated within the herd. “Tuberculosis is a funny disease; it is kind of like a ninja,” says Boon. “It can lay there where you can’t detect it. The tests don’t work well all the time.” Tracebacks have led to

movement controls on 18,000 animals at 24 locations in BC, Alberta and Saskatchewan. CFIA is testing the herds to identify and contain risks to animal and human health. A notable aspect of this

outbreak is that the strain of TB in question is unique. It is not related to the strain implicated in a 2016 outbreak in Alberta, nor to the strain at

the heart of BC’s last outbreak in 2011 in Cherryville. In fact, it’s a first for North America, with no known matches in domestic or wild populations. Whether that’s good or bad is a question Boon keeps being asked. He thinks it’s positive. “It means that the previous cases that we have worked on are not linked to this one, which means they have probably stopped those previous cases so this is separate,” he says. “So it is not a thing where they screwed up in one of the others and this one got out.”

Whether or not CFIA determines the strain’s origin is another question. A source wasn’t discovered in either BC’s last outbreak or in 2016 in Alberta. However, it’s still early in

the investigation, which Boon estimates could last two years. The ranch in question faces

plenty of uncertainty in the meantime, including destruction of its animals. Just six infected animals

were identified in BC’s last outbreak of bovine TB but CFIA ordered the preventative destruction of 200 cattle. A similar fate likely awaits the current herd, though it was

LACK of transparency

comments appear to have come from government staff. “If this is true, we find that

very disconcerting,” says Anderson. “We have asked for but not received clarification. We are frustrated by this lack of transparency.”

An emerging concern for Anderson is the potential for regulating water use on private land, not just Crown land.

“I think government is

comfortable with the fact that the water that you use on Crown land is covered by your range use plan, but it has recently come to our attention that they would like to have regulations for private land,” says Anderson. “One of the reasons given for that is to include First Nations consultation on private land water use.” Protocols for dugouts also seem to be changing, he says. What constitutes a stream is at

largely self-contained. “The index herd will likely be completely depopulated; that is standard protocol,” says Boon.

Discussions are taking place regarding

compensation, but will take time. Other ranchers shouldn’t

worry that their herds are next, however.

“Until CFIA calls you, it is business as normal,” he says. “You are not a risk of picking it up somewhere along the line that easily.” Trading relationships have not been impacted by the discoveries.

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the centre of that issue. “If water runs into a dugout,

is it groundwater or surface water?” he asks. “There is a lot of confusion around that, so we have asked that they use the same definition of a stream that is in the Forest Range Practices Act.” What concerns Anderson most is that government lacks a rural voice, and urban voters are unfamiliar with ranch practices and requirements. “The current government is

a very urban-elected government,” says Anderson. “They seem to be listening very closely to the concerns of urban people with regard to water in BC.”

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