Guarding Against Transmittable Diseases

November 1, 2019 | Paul Bootsma

Guarding Against Transmittable Diseases

By now everyone knows about the catastrophe caused by the African Swine Fever epidemic in Asia. Here in Canada, transmittable diseases are a constant concern for livestock farmers. Think of what one animal with bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) resulted in for the beef industry. In Ontario, the swine industry is still monitoring for the Porcine epidemic diarrhea (PED) which was moving through the US and entered Canada.

In Canada, we have a traceability program to manage disease outbreaks with the intent to prevent diseases from spreading to the entire nation. The program is administered by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA).  It is meant to track movement of food and livestock. This helps the CFIA to identify the source of contaminated foods and manage serious outbreaks. When there is a disease outbreak, the CFIA will block transportation of potentially affected animals from the source area, allowing producers from disease-free areas in the country to continue exporting goods.

Back in the early 2000s, the beef export industry across the entire country was shut down because one cow in the west tested positive for BSE. The traceability program is meant to prevent such scenarios. With Canada’s large land mass and agriculture’s dependency on exports, the traceability program is vital for the safety of the industry.

Recently, Canadian farmers have been facing a new challenge in disease prevention with the increase in wild and feral animals roaming freely in farming areas. More specifically we are seeing an increase in the population of wild boars. Aside from the huge damage that herds of wild boars can cause to crops, orchards, vineyards and bushland, they also carry diseases that are transmissible to domestic herds, including rabies. This threat has raised the concern of Ontario’s Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry (MNRF). The MNRF is asking the public to assist with the wild boar situation by reporting any sightings online.

Often, when an invasive species enters an area, there are few—if any—natural predators, which is the case with wild boars. This allows for fast reproduction of the species, making it difficult to manage or eradicate them, if necessary.

With proper knowledge and tracking of diseases, and their carriers, we can protect unaffected regions of the country, allowing farmers to keep doing business there. Canada highly depends on its health record for exporting agricultural products with our trading partners.

Paul Bootsma is Member Relations Manager for the Christian Farmers Federation of Ontario. The CFFO Commentary represents the opinions of the writer and does not necessarily represent CFFO policy. The CFFO Commentary is heard weekly on CFCO Chatham, CKXS Chatham, and CKNX Wingham.