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Manitoba cattle exports threatened

WINNIPEG, Man. -- Cattle exporters in Manitoba are waiting anxiously for new U.S. Department of Agriculture restric...

WINNIPEG, Man. — Cattle exporters in Manitoba are waiting anxiously for new U.S. Department of Agriculture restrictions on the cattle exports, following a bovine tuberculosis outbreak.

New USDA regulations are expected within a month and restrictions on certain Manitoba cattle are a certainty, according to the Canadian Cattlemen’s Association (CCA). There is some fear, however, the impact may be far-reaching and affect cattle exports from across the country.

“Never say never,” CCA spokesman, Rob McNabb warns. “You always have the ‘what ifs.'”

The CCA hopes the restrictions will only affect cattle coming out of the Riding Mountain National Park area, where the outbreak was detected. The new rules will likely impact the exports of breeding cattle and heifers that have yet to be spayed.

Still, if the U.S. takes a broader approach to the issue, banning cattle from across the entire province, the impact could be devastating for livestock haulers. Manitoba produced about 530,000 cattle in 2001, nearly all of which were exported. Half of the province’s cattle were exported to the U.S., with the rest going to other regions in Canada.

The most recent tuberculosis outbreak has been blamed on elk in Riding Mountain. It has cost the province its tuberculosis-free designation and prompted the U.S. to take action to prevent the spread of the disease. It will take until 2005 before the province can once again be designated tuberculosis-free.

Although exports from the region probably won’t be completely banned by the U.S., producers will likely be forced to carry out time-consuming and expensive tests on each animal slated for export.

“It will certainly add a considerable expense to the industry and the producer,” says Betty Green, president of the Manitoba Cattle Producers’ Association.

Meanwhile, there is concern Ontario may also be on the verge of an outbreak, after a herd in Peterborough County showed some signs of possible infection. Tests are under way to confirm whether the symptoms are those of tuberculosis.

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