Bovine tuberculosis discovery leads to quarantine for 30 Alberta ranches

CALGARY – About 30 southeastern Alberta ranches are being quarantined after bovine tuberculosis was reported in a single cow from the province that was slaughtered in the United States.

The Canadian Food Inspection Agency said Friday its veterinarians and inspectors are making contact with cattle producers in five Alberta agricultural zones and are working with provincial authorities to investigate the report.

“The investigation is ongoing and it is not yet known how many animals will require testing,” said agency spokesman Denis Schryburt in an email.

“The number of animals requiring testing will depend on a number of factors such as whether additional animals test positive and the movements of exposed animals to other locations.”

He said the affected cow came from a ranch near Jenner, about 250 kilometres east of Calgary. The agency said the United States Department of Agriculture reported the case of bovine TB in September.

The quarantine means that animals must remain on the ranch unless they are moved directly to an inspected slaughter facility, said Schryburt.

Bob Lowe, chair of the Alberta Beef Producers, said ranches under quarantine could face additional costs of housing and feeding their livestock as winter sets in, instead of selling the animals.

“As far as the Canadian cattle industry is concerned, it’s not a problem at all. It’s not a border issue, it’s not affecting markets,” he said.

“But if you’re one of the producers that’s quarantined, it’s devastating.”

If any infected cattle are found, the entire herd would have to be destroyed, he added.

Bovine TB is a reportable disease in Canada and has been subject to a mandatory national eradication program since 1923, the agency said.

It added that Canada is considered to be officially free of the disease although isolated cases may occur. It said the finding does not affect Canada’s current status.

The agency said that bovine TB generally does not pose a threat to public health in Canada but individuals who have extended, close contact with an infected animal while it is alive are at risk of contracting the disease. Wildlife may also transmit the disease to livestock.

– With a file from Ian Bickis in Calgary