Project emphasizes new ways to test for bTB

project-emphasizes-new-test-for-btb.jpgThe first steps to moving away from live-animal testing for Bovine Tuberculosis (bTB) in Manitoba are now underway.

The Farm-Based Risk Assessments within the Riding Mountain Bovine Tuberculosis Eradication Area (RMEA) project was launched in 2014 and will use new ways to characterize risk, map distribution of elk and white tailed deer and finalize the on-farm risk assessment process. The program is supported through funding from Growing Forward 2's Growing Innovation program.

"This research is going to help us put a new tool in the toolbox and eventually move away from live-animal testing. Some producers have been going through this testing so long it's probably hard for them to see an end in sight, but it's going to be such a relief," says Melinda German, general manager of Manitoba Beef Producers (MBP).

History of testing in RMEA helped maintain bTB-free status

Although there has not been a domestic case of bTB in Manitoba since 2008, testing on farms in the RMEA by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) has continued to ensure Manitoba maintains their bTB-free status.

"Continuing to maintain our bTB-free status while moving away from live-animal testing will give our producers better opportunities to freely raise and trade their livestock ," says German. "We're leading the country in conducting this type of research. What we're doing will help the entire industry meet regulatory requirements and avoid disruptions to the flow of our cattle into the U.S. market."

The project includes five sub-projects to trace potential bTB:

  • Evaluate potential risks of livestock/wildlife interaction
  • Map spatial data of the quarter sections cattle reside in the RMEA
  • Analyze the locations of white-tailed deer harvested through hunting within the RMEA.
  • Analyze farmers damage claims made to Manitoba Agricultural Services Corporation between 1987 and 2012 that received compensation for deer damage to hay bales and develop a map of risk. This is a means of tracking indirect contact.
  • Finalize the development of an on-farm risk assessment questionnaire and analysis process

Potential to grow in the industry

According to German, having the idea of a potential bTB infection removed would encourage more people in the area to consider farming as a career.

"I see this as a bit of a barrier for young people entering the business as a producer in the RMEA. Without the associated costs related to bTB testing we may see an expansion in Manitoba's beef industry in this area," she says.

The project will be able to alleviate the stress and impacts of ongoing bTB testing, which affects the approximately 500 cattle producers within the RMEA. It has been estimated that the impacts of the ongoing bTB situation is over one million dollars per year.