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Livestock industry to prepare for devastating disease

by 5m Editor
2 February 2005, at 12:00am

CANADA - With the enormous economic and social toll of BSE and avian flu as a backdrop, the Canadian livestock industry needs to prepare for a potentially more serious outbreak of a contagious Foreign Animal Disease (FAD) that would have a much deeper impact across all livestock sectors, says the president of the Canadian Pork Council (CPC).

Livestock industry to prepare for devastating disease - CANADA - With the enormous economic and social toll of BSE and avian flu as a backdrop, the Canadian livestock industry needs to prepare for a potentially more serious outbreak of a contagious Foreign Animal Disease (FAD) that would have a much deeper impact across all livestock sectors, says the president of the Canadian Pork Council (CPC).

Clare Schlegel, an Ontario pork producer, doesn't want to be a scaremonger, but says estimates show that even an isolated, short-lived outbreak could cost producers as much as $13 billion. Not a scenario to play around with, he adds. The worst-case estimates for a major outbreak pegs the hit to the Canadian economy at $45 billion.

"The time to prepare is now," says Schlegel. "As producers and as an industry we need to move on a management plan that will effectively control a disease outbreak."

A feature story on Schlegel's call to action, made to producers at the recent Banff Pork Seminar, appears on the Meristem Land and Science website at www.meristem.com.

B.C.'s avian flu outbreak in 2004 and the BSE crisis, which has crippled the Canadian beef industry since early 2003, give some indication of the impact disease can have on industries. The difference between those two situations and an FAD outbreak is that avian flu is specific to poultry, and BSE is a non-contagious disease specific to ruminant livestock.

A contagious, foreign animal disease outbreak, such as foot-and-mouth disease or hog cholera is one of the worst nightmares for an industry. Movement of animals is frozen, borders are closed, auction marts and slaughter plants are locked, and animal and meat trade is suspended, as the government and industry scrambles to contain and eradicate the disease. The lockdown could last for weeks or months.

Not only are directly infected animals culled, there is also the much greater impact of what's called "the welfare slaughter," which casts a net over all species within a specified area. These are animals at risk of catching or carrying the disease, or simply caught in the lockdown, with no market to go to.

Schlegel who represents the CPC on the Canadian Animal Health Coalition (CAHC), is urging not only the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) to move forward with planning, he's also urging provincial livestock associations and individual producers to have their emergency plans in place. The CAHC, representing all livestock sectors - beef, dairy, pork, poultry and other species - is working with CFIA to develop plans to mitigate the impact of a foreign animal disease outbreak.

The CAHC estimates for Canada and the actual experience of other countries that have and are dealing with a FAD demonstrates the sweeping impact of a disease outbreak.

Estimates for an isolated outbreak, such as foot-and-mouth disease affecting 50 farms in Alberta, show that it could cost producers and the industry $13 billion in livestock value and lost income, as up to 4.2 million animals are culled across all sectors to control the outbreak and eliminate risk.

In actual terms, a recent outbreak of classic swine fever in The Netherlands affected 429 farms and required the cull of 700,000 hogs on infected farms, another one million hogs on neighboring farms, and a further 10 million hogs through the welfare slaughter.

Of the multi-billion dollar cost, four percent was attributed to infected animals, 36 percent to animals culled in the welfare slaughter and the balance was due to other indirect costs.

"The impact of an outbreak is far-reaching, even if it is relatively small," says Schlegel. "As an industry, in the event of an outbreak, we have to move quickly and decisively to control and eradicate the disease and restore world confidence in the quality and safety of the products we produce."

Meristem Land and Science, anchored at www.meristem.com, features "progress and perspective from the best minds in agriculture, food and the environment."

Source: Canadian Pork Council - 1st February 2005

5m Editor