U.S. lifts requirements on Manitoba cattle after 20+ years of bovine TB testing

Ranchers around Riding Mountain National Park in Manitoba reached a long-awaited milestone on Sunday, more than 20 years after the U.S. implemented bovine tuberculosis (TB) testing requirements and restrictions on cattle headed south.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture has lifted the pre-export testing requirement for breeding cattle and bison coming from Manitoba, as of July 1, 2018.

“It was back in 1997 that the USDA placed requirements and testing restrictions on cattle coming out of Manitoba,” notes Brian Lemon, general manager of Manitoba Beef Producers, in the interview below. “It’s been a 20-year struggle to clean it up and then prove to the U.S. that we were in fact clean.”

With TB-free trade status at risk after several bovine TB-infected cattle herds were found linked to elk and deer populations in the Riding Mountain National Park area, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency established a special surveillance zone known as the Riding Mountain Eradication Area (RMEA) in 2003. According to the CFIA, more than 234,000 individual livestock tests have been conducted since the early 2000s. (The last positive test result in cattle was found in 2008.)

As Lemon explains in the interview, the average cost for each of these tests has been estimated at between $17 and $20 per head.

“This is a tremendous win for the beef producers of Manitoba. For many years producers in the Riding Mountain Eradication Area have borne a heavy cost in the yearly mustering and surveillance testing of their animals. This USDA decision recognizes the decades of hard work undertaken by MBP and producers on the bovine TB issue and is very good news for our sector,” says MBP president Ben E. Fox, in a statement. “It is a testament to the diligence of the producers in the RMEA, as well as the efforts of many other stakeholders that we have achieved this long sought-after result.”

In addition to testing, ranchers in the region have taken steps to prevent interactions between cattle and wildlife, including barrier fencing and the use of livestock guardian dogs.

The TB eradication effort has involved many stakeholders and government departments, including the Manitoba Beef Producers, Canadian Food Inspection Agency, Parks Canada, Manitoba Sustainable Development, Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, Manitoba Agriculture, First Nations and the Manitoba Wildlife Federation.

“It is gratifying to see the hard work of the many partners finally rewarded,” says Dr. Allan Preston, who was appointed by the federal and provincial governments in 2012 to coordinate the eradication and surveillance effort. “Manitoba had its last case of bovine tuberculosis in 2008 – a long ten years later, the USDA has recognized our TB-free status and all federal U.S. restrictions on Manitoba breeding stock moving into the US have been lifted. My hat is off especially to the dedicated cattle producers in the Riding Mountain Eradication Area whose efforts have made this TB freedom a reality.”

The stakeholders will continue to collaborate to make sure risks are mitigated, says Lemon.

Since individual U.S. states can have their own state-level bovine TB testing requirements, he notes producers are still advised to check with authorities before shipping cattle south.

Listen to Brian Lemon, general manager of Manitoba Beef Producers, discuss the USDA’s move to lift bovine TB testing requirements in Manitoba:

 

Kelvin Heppner

Kelvin Heppner is a field editor and radio host for RealAgriculture and RealAg Radio. He's been reporting on agriculture on the prairies and across Canada since 2008(ish). He farms with his family near Altona, Manitoba, and is on Twitter at @realag_kelvin. @realag_kelvin

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