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The economic impact of bovine tuberculosis

Recent cases of bovine tuberculosis have spurred a massive and effective emergency response. But, as Albertan producers know all too well, disease breakouts can have perilous economic effects

Mar 13, 2017

by Alberta Venture Staff


When BSE was found in northern Alberta cattle in 2003, 40 countries banned imports of Canadian beef. The Canadian Cattlemen’s Association estimated the BSE crisis cost the industry between $6 billion and $10 billion. The U.S. didn’t fully reopen its borders to Alberta beef until 2007

Under Canada’s Health of Animals Regulations, bovine tuberculosis falls within the purview of a mandatory national eradication program, which has been in effect since 1923

Patient Zero

September 27, 2016, 9:30 p.m.
Brad Osadczuk gets a phone call from the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) informing him that bovine tuberculosis had been found in a cow slaughtered in the U.S. and that it was traced back to Osadczuk’s ranch. His herd will be destroyed, and the CFIA compensates him for the lost animals, up to $10,000 for registered cattle and $4,500 for commercial cattle

Quarantine begins

October 2016
The CFIA opens an investigation. About 30 other ranches near Osadczuk’s property are placed under federal quarantine (about 90 per cent of the ranching community near Jenner, a town about 75 kilometres from Brooks). Farmers who can’t get their cattle to market and have to spend more to feed them are not compensated

Osadczuk speaks

November 22, 2016
At a standing committee in Ottawa, Osadczuk says that 400 head, which are stuck in a feedlot during quarantine, are costing him $92,000 per month. “Our bank accounts are frozen,” he says. “We’re overdrawn by hundreds and hundreds of thousands of dollars for these sizes of operations, and we’re paying interest on that money daily… We owe the bank hundreds of thousands of dollars, and now we go, ‘Oh hey, we need a couple hundred thousand dollars for feed for some cows that, in the end, are going to die.’”

More infected

November 23, 2016
Five more cattle are found to be infected with bovine tuberculosis

Quarantine expands

November 28, 2016
By the end of the month, more than 22,000 cattle, most in southeastern Alberta, are under federal quarantine, spanning 50 properties. Eighteen are declared infected after coming into contact with six cattle that had bovine tuberculosis. The provincial and federal governments consider compensating farmers through AgriRecovery, an assistance program funded by both levels of government

Feedlots open

November 29, 2016
The CFIA approves a plan to send calves from quarantined herds to feedlots. It also narrows down the herds that came into contact with the original infected herd to about 10,000 cattle, which will all have to be destroyed. Producers estimate that it will be months until the CFIA finishes its investigation. The costs of holding extra cattle, which can’t be moved to market, continue to mount

AgriRecovery

November 30, 2016
Provincial and federal agriculture ministers announce that affected farmers will be eligible for AgriRecovery, committing up to $17 million. The ministers encourage farmers who need immediate assistance to use the Advance Payments Program

Disaster declared

December 15, 2016
With about 26,000 cattle now under quarantine, the Alberta government officially declares the outbreak a disaster. The Beef Pen Show and Cowboy Christmas Tradeshow, hallmarks of the Medicine Hat Exhibition & Stampede, are cancelled citing fears of the disease spreading

Quarantine shrinks

December 21, 2016
By now, seven of the 50 properties are no longer under quarantine

Processor opens

January 2017
No quarantines are lifted over the Christmas holidays. The CFIA estimates that no new cases have been found, but expects the full investigation will take months to wrap up. A second processor, which can euthanize the infected cattle, is opened up. Service Canada sets up a dedicated phone line to assist producers

It’s impossible to tell exactly how much this outbreak will cost the agriculture industry, but in the U.K., bovine tuberculosis has cost the sector an estimated 500 million pounds over the last decade.

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