(Adds minister's comment on compensation)
By Rod Nickel
WINNIPEG, Manitoba Nov 22 Ranchers in western
Canada whose herds are under quarantine due to the spread of
bovine tuberculosis told federal legislators on Tuesday that
they desperately need to sell cattle or collect compensation to
avoid financial disaster.
Ranchers who raise calves typically sell them in autumn to
feedlots, where they are fattened to slaughter weight.
But some ranchers are absorbing the cost of feeding calves
longer due to quarantines by the Canadian government on 34 farms
in southeast Alberta and two farms in southwest Saskatchewan.
The federal Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) has confirmed
six cases of Alberta cattle with bovine TB, dating back to the
September discovery of an infected cow at a U.S. slaughter
"The feed costs are going to destroy us," said rancher Ross
White, speaking by video to Canada's agriculture committee
meeting in Ottawa. "...I'll be broke by spring."
Rancher Brad Osadczuk told legislators that the quarantine
is costing him C$92,000 ($68,000) per month to feed 400 head of
cattle, one-third of his herd.
Canada's C$10.5 billion ($7.8 billion) cattle industry is
centered in Alberta, the biggest cattle-raising province, and
home of slaughter plants owned by JBS USA Holdings Inc
and Cargill Ltd .
Canadian Agriculture Minister Lawrence MacAulay said the
government pays compensation for animals that are destroyed, but
there currently is no program to help farmers whose herds are
"I've asked my department to look into that and try to
rectify the situation," he told reporters. "Having been a
farmer, I fully understand the cost that's involved."
An estimated 18,000 head of cattle are held in quarantine
for testing, Rich Smith, executive director of Alberta Beef
Producers, said in an interview. While the quarantines are
causing "great hardship" for ranchers directly affected, it is
unlikely to have a major impact on overall cattle supplies, he
Exports of young cattle from Canada, the sixth-largest beef
and veal exporter, to U.S. feed lots have dropped by more than
one-third year to date, according to the U.S. Department of
CFIA has said its testing, aimed at tracing the spread of
TB, could take months.
Bovine tuberculosis is a contagious disease caused by
bacteria that are closely related to the bacteria that cause
tuberculosis in humans and birds, resulting in illness, coughing
and death, according to the World Organization for Animal Health
($1 = 1.3464 Canadian dollars)
(Additional reporting by David Ljunggren in Ottawa; Editing by