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How membership in the World Organisation for Animal Health helps Canadian beef exports

The 86th session of the general assembly of the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE), which took place from May 20-25 this year in Paris, France, concluded with some positive changes for Canada when it comes to beef exports.

The Canadian delegation was led by Dr. Jaspinder Komal, Canada’s Chief Veterinary Officer (CVO) and included ACFA’s president and CEO, Bryan Walton.

Setting international standards for the livestock industries

The OIE is an international organization whose primary objective is to set international standards for animal health and the safe trade of animals and animal products.

It was created in 1924 in response to an outbreak of rinderpest disease in cattle in Europe. Since then, its membership has grown from the original 24 European countries to its current membership of 182 countries from around the world.

Member countries follow the standards created by OIE by incorporating them into their own national animal health legislation. The standards are recognized by the World Trade Organization, and are used as a guide to mediate trade disputes between countries.

How Canada takes a leading role in the OIE

We spoke with Dr. Komal to learn more about Canada’s participation in the OIE.

“The development of these standards is democratic,” said Dr. Komal. “Ad hoc working groups draft the initial standards, which are then sent to all member countries twice before the standard is adopted in a general assembly attended by official delegates from all member countries.”

Canada is known for its strong reputation and expertise in animal health. As a global leader and because of the importance of international standards to trade Canada actively influences the development and finalization of OIE standards by providing expertise on ad hoc working groups and specialist commissions, and by sending the official delegate to the general assembly where these standards are adopted. Canada also works with like-minded countries such as the U.S., New Zealand and Australia to influence the development of these standards.

Outcomes from the 86th general assembly

Dr. Komal explained that, in addition to the general assembly meetings, side meetings also take place between delegates to discuss trade issues. This year, Canada advanced trade discussions with 14 countries. Some of the positive trade outcomes include:

    • The Canadian and Chinese delegates met to discuss harmonization of the audit process for pet food or rendering products. They agreed to meet later this year to finalize this harmonization, recognizing each country’s systems and potentially streamlining our trade of pet food with China.
    • The US agreed to collaborate on the Northern Border Port entry project under which Canadian feeder cattle will not be unloaded from the trailer when presented for inspection at the US port of entry. This will help streamline cattle movements across the Canada–US border and address animal welfare issues.
    • The U.S. delegation recognized Manitoba as being free from bovine tuberculosis, which means that breeding cattle being exported to the U.S. no longer require testing.

Dr. Komal concluded by saying, “It’s important to feed the world, and the OIE standards help protect against diseases that can be transmitted from one animal to another, and from animals to humans.”

Next week on this blog we will learn more about Dr. Komal’s role as Canada’s chief veterinary officer.

Dr. Joyce Van Donkersgoed wins award for contributions to cattle care

Joyce Van Donkersgoed is a valued member of the cattle feeding sector who we’ve written about in previous posts on this blog. Her contributions to animal care and welfare make hers a familiar name among industry members.

We were delighted to see Joyce recognized at the 50th annual conference of the American Association of Bovine Practitioners on Sept. 14, 2017, in Omaha, Nebraska.

The Metacam® 20 Bovine Welfare Award is given each year to recognize the achievements of an individual in advancing the welfare of animals via leadership, public service, education, research/product development, and/or advocacy. It is awarded to a doctor of veterinary medicine or animal scientist working in Canada, or a faculty member or a graduate student of a Canadian university. The recipient is someone whose work significantly improves bovine welfare in cattle production and research systems, or improves scientific methods of measuring bovine welfare.

Joyce is the owner of Alberta Beef Health Solutions in Picture Butte, Alberta, providing emergency, herd health and production services as well as research and regulatory services. She was also instrumental in the development of the Feedlot Animal Care Assessment Program (pdf) which we wrote about inNew assessment tool to audit feedlot animal care’.

Of her research work, Joyce said: “You can’t manage what you don’t measure, which includes animal welfare, and we must continually strive to improve. Beef veterinarians have a key ethical and moral responsibility to ensure animal welfare whilst balancing the needs of their clients. It isn’t always simple or easy to do, but persistence does pay off over time if you don’t give up and are doing the right thing for the animals, which is ultimately best for the client.”

Joyce donated the $2,000 award to the National Cattle Feeders’ Association (NCFA) Welfare Committee.

You can read more about Joyce and her achievements in ‘Feedlot people: meet a cattle feedlot veterinarian’.

Antimicrobials on the feedlot: Why animal care should matter to consumers

There’s a great deal of confusion and misinformation out there about the use of antimicrobials – of which antibiotics are just one type — in food animals.

In a recent blog series we explored why antimicrobials are used, what the concerns are, and what safeguards are in place. This week we met with John Schooten of Schooten and Sons Custom Feedyards to get the perspective from someone on the ground. We asked John to tell us how, when and why cattle feeders use antimicrobials in their operations.

John explained that their top priority is maintaining the best health and welfare for their cattle. “We use a combination of appropriate disease prevention and control measures, and prompt treatment of illness, injury and disease,” he said.

John Schooten and Sons Custom Feedlots

Herd Health Management

Every feedlot has a strategy for disease prevention, rapid diagnosis and effective treatment of illness in their cattle. This would typically include daily monitoring, and maintenance of accurate animal management and health records.

Because cattle are kept together in pens in feedlots, they can be at an increased risk for the transmission of disease. When you add in stressors, such as weaning and transportation, co-mingling at auction markets and weather issues, that adds to the risk.

“Antimicrobials are then sometimes necessary for medical or preventative purposes,” said John. “For example, Bovine Respiratory Disease (BRD) is a leading cause of sickness and mortality in the beef feedlot industry. Early treatment decreases the likelihood of cattle dying or suffering long-term symptoms, and using antibiotics, when appropriate, is the humane thing to do.

Veterinary Supervision

All feedlots work closely with their veterinarian when it comes to disease prevention and herd health. “A licensed, practicing veterinarian will have the responsibility for making clinical judgments regarding the health of the cattle and the need for medical treatment,” explained John.

Food Safety

Feedlot operators must adhere to strict standards of quality assurance, and their compliance is monitored. Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) regulations specify withdrawal times that must have elapsed from the last dose of antibiotics (and other drug products such as non-steroidal anti-inflammatories or vaccines) before the animal can be sent for processing. This ensures that all beef is antibiotic free.

“Feedlots use antimicrobials prudently to ensure the animals’ health and welfare,” continued John. “Feedlots’ concerns about antimicrobial resistance are actively addressed through very limited use of Category One drugs, ongoing research, regulatory requirements, veterinary oversight and antimicrobial stewardship practices.”

Should we be raising cattle without the use of antimicrobials?

“Without the use of antimicrobials, the outcome for animal welfare is very negative,” said John. “Animals get sick, suffer and die.”

Our producers are committed to providing safe, wholesome beef to consumers around the world, and raising healthy cattle is an important part of that process.

There is more information about the use of antimicrobials in food animals in the earlier posts in this series: