December 03, 2003



Animal Traceability For Canada's Hog Industry Will Occur By 2006

Animal traceability for the Canada's hog industry will occur within the next three years and producers need to plan for it and be involved in its design, says the general manager of Sask Pork.


Neil Ketilson told the Saskatchewan Pork Industry Symposium that if producers don't become involved in determining how the animal identification and tracing systems are designed, they might end up with costly programs that fail to serve their needs.


Governments in North America are committed to making all livestock traceable in the next few years. Cattle traceability is already a reality and pigs are not far behind.


The foot-and-mouth outbreak in Great Britain illustrated the need to be able to quickly locate livestock farms and trace animals.


A Canadian Animal Health Coalition report suggests that bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) has cost $3.3 billion to date and will cost the industry an additional $6.6 billion over the long term. A foot-and-mouth disease outbreak would be a far worse disaster, costing Canadians an estimated $45 billion.


"Anything we can do to keep those costs down and avoid them altogether is a good investment," said Ketilson, who has operated intensive livestock operations for Heartland Pork Management.


Traceability includes finding the farm where the individual animal originated, finding out where it has been, and determining its relatives and others it has contacted.


"Does this mean every animal or most animals? Groups or individuals?" he asked those attending the Saskatchewan Pork Industry Symposium in Saskatoon on November 18-20.


"As an industry, we track animals in groups today ... For cattle, a $2 cost of an ear tag per animal is affordable. An additional $2 on every pig you produce is (not)."


Ketilson said if the tattoo used to identify animals for payments based on lean meat works for packers, "then it should be good enough for tracing animals."


Ketilson said the goals of five national organizations are being applied in the development of the identification system: Canadian Food Inspection Agency, Canadian Animal Health Coalition, Canadian Pork Council, Canadian Livestock Identification Agency and Electronic Commerce Council of Canada.


"Each has issues they want to see addressed."


The United States "is developing a system as well and their system should be compatible with ours, so we need to ensure that the producer gets some benefit from a system he or she will ultimately pay for," he said.


Ketilson wants the database of animals to be accessible to producers so they can use it for production management and financial record keeping.


He says a computerized on-line tracing system should allow growers to:  

    • Analyze and manage their inventory.

    • See their slaughter grade results.

    • Develop production records.

    • Enter and analyze their own farm financial information.  

"It could be a very useful tool for producers and for industry and producer organizations, but it needs to respect confidentiality at the same time."


A two year traceability pilot project with a $1 million budget is under way involving 60 farms in Manitoba, Quebec and the Maritimes. A mapping project using the global positioning system to identify each producing farm is also being developed.


The Electronic Commerce Council wants the system to use standard computer architecture so data could be shared with government and industry in the future.


The livestock ID and food inspection agencies want standard systems in place so the pig system could potentially be merged with cattle, bison, sheep and other livestock systems in the event of disease outbreaks.


"It needs to be accurate, auditable, internationally recognized, as well as being simple and inexpensive. And it should be capable of being a useful management tool as well. No small task," Ketilson said.

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