Government plans for animal disease outbreak

New animal identification database to increase food safety for Manitobans

Harborside Farms

Animal disease outbreaks are happening all over the world and leading to negative consequences for our food supply. In response, the Canadian government is taking action by implementing a national traceability program for all livestock.

Canada announced that the new premises identification database will track animals right from birth all the way to the dinner table. All provinces are responsible for the collection of premises identification in accordance with national standards.

The premises are considered the parcel of land where livestock and poultry are grown, kept, assembled or disposed of, according to Manitoba Agriculture, Food and Rural Initiatives (MAFRI).

Premises identification links livestock and poultry to geographic locations for planning and managing emergencies by keeping basic land and contact information on file.

The program provides an emergency tool to help with an outbreak or natural disaster, says Heather Martens, an agri-food traceability coordinator with MAFRI.

“If there is an animal health issue we can help (the farmers) – notifying them so that they can protect themselves because some of these diseases (are transferred to) humans,” Martens said.

According to Martens, different sections of the livestock industry have had their own traceability programs in place for a few years. The government is now focusing on a multi-species point of view since certain diseases can affect more than one species of animal.

If there is an animal health issue we can help (the farmers) – notifying them so that they can protect themselves because some of these diseases (are transferred to) humans.

Heather Martens, Manitoba Agriculture,  Food and Rural Initiatives

Richard Simcock, the owner of Oak Island Goat Dairy near Île-des-Chênes, Man., immigrated to Canada from England seven years ago. Seeing the effects of the foot-and-mouth disease in the United Kingdom, he knows the importance of traceability first hand.

“Traceability for the food will definitely be a good thing,” Simcock stated. “That’s where they’ve gone in England ... where the public can trace where the food is coming from so they feel safer.”

Clinton Cavers, a lifelong farmer and owner of Harborside Farms, does not have the same need for traceability as other registered farmers. Harborside handles all parts of the raising, processing and even selling of their livestock.

“As far as traceability goes, we know which animals we’re processing and we know where they all come from obviously and we know who’s buying our food,” Cavers stated.

Cavers is a part of the premises identification program, but has not had to implement anything new other than having an identification number.

For some industries, the program won’t change the way producers operate their businesses.

Karen Armstrong, the assistant manager of Manitoba Chicken Producers, said the announcement by the government will not have an effect on registered chicken farmers.

“We already have all of their information on file essentially,” she said. “Should something happen that the office of the provincial veterinarian needs that information, we have an information sharing agreement (in place).”

Published in Volume 65, Number 8 of The Uniter (October 21, 2010)

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