By Magpie Group
You may have never heard of traceability, but it plays a very important role in managing animal health and food safety in Canada. And it all has to do with our ability to track and control the spread of disease.
Disease outbreaks can be devastating to livestock and farmers. They put farm animal welfare in jeopardy, cause stress in animals and people, and lead to a severe economic burden for farmers, their families and communities.
Reportable diseases are specific diseases that have considerable impact on human health, animal health and/or the Canadian economy. Livestock owners, veterinarians and labs are required by law to report to the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) if they suspect an animal has been infected with one of these diseases.
In rare cases, animal diseases can even lead to food safety issues for consumers.
Traceability is an effective defence
Livestock farmers and ranchers take many precautions when caring for their animals to prevent disease. These include good animal management practices and biosecurity measures. Traceability is another strategy.
Traceability systems provide the ability to follow one animal or a group of animals throughout all the steps in the food supply chain during a reportable disease outbreak or food safety issue. It makes it possible for farmers, veterinarians and/or government personnel to work together to identify and locate all affected animals, farms, facilities and transportation vehicles. It’s the responsibility of not just farmers, but everyone involved with the animal throughout its lifetime.
Canada’s animal identification and traceability programs are recognized worldwide.
All livestock traceability systems in Canada consist of three components: animal identification, premise ID (PID) and animal movement. These components work together to create an effective traceability environment.
Animal identification involves assigning a unique ID number to an animal or group of animals that stays with them for life. The numbers are recorded in a database for easy retrieval to help identify an animal in the event of an emergency.
A PID links an animal’s ID number linked to a specific location, and includes information such as the physical location, farmer’s contact information, type of farm and animal species kept there. PIDs are assigned to any location that handles farm animals, including farms, veterinary clinics, auction markets, horse boarding stables, fairs and exhibitions, racetracks, research facilities – and even zoos!
When an animal moves to a new location, farmers and others in charge of livestock are required to report the unique animal ID, the PID it moved from and the PID it moved to.
Traceability requires an enormous amount of data management and information tracking.
Traceability is an important protection tool for managing an outbreak. Traceability does not prevent disease. BUT an efficient traceability system significantly reduces the number of animals who become infected and can stop its spread quickly.
Traceability systems protect:
- Animal health and welfare by preventing the spread of diseases
- Food safety and public health by making it possible to react promptly when food safety issues are discovered
- Global market access by helping maintain confidence in Canada’s livestock supply chains
- Consumer trust by helping Canadians ensure their food is safe and healthy
Nearly all farm animal species have traceability programs
The Canadian Cattle Identification Agency (CCIA) manages the traceability of beef, bison, sheep, deer, elk and goats, while dairy cattle traceability is managed by DairyTrace which was developed by Dairy Farmers of Canada. Both of these programs use RFID ear tags that can be quickly scanned electronically.
Pigs are managed through the PigTRACE system (Canadian Pork Council) as herds rather than individuals. They are identified with either ear RFID tags or tattoos. All three traceability programs are required by law under the Health of Animals Act.
The Raised by a Canadian Farmer On-Farm Food Safety and Animal Care Programs, through Chicken Farmers of Canada, are national programs that require mandatory participation by chicken producers. All farms are mapped by GPS and, if a disease outbreak occurs, affected barns can be identified within 24 hours and stop movement orders can be issued to prevent diseases from spreading between barns.
Preventing disease is very, very important to farmers. And so is producing food that is safe. That’s why initiatives like traceability are so vital to both animal welfare and food safety – as well as to the Canadian economy and consumers.
Farmers work hard to provide for their families, care for the animals they raise and grow food safely and efficiently. The decisions they make daily influence their ability to produce nutritious and high-quality food in a sustainable, responsible way that ensures future generations can continue to farm. Canadian agriculture has created sustainability and farm stewardships initiatives to guide production and management practices in almost every sector.
Learn more about these programs here:
- Protecting Biodiversity: Environmental Farm Plans
- Healthy Soil For Today And The Future: 4R Nutrient Stewardship
- Encouraging Responsible Use Of Pesticides: Pesticide Applicator Licence
- Recycling On The Farm: Cleanfarms
- Ensuring Animal Welfare On Canadian Farms
- Biosecurity: Keeping Animals Healthy On Canadian Farms
- How Do You Know Canadian-Grown Food Is Safe?
- Codes Of Practice: The Building Blocks Of Quality Farm Animal Care