Canadian Cattlemen's Association says latest BSE cow was born on Alberta farm

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EDMONTON - The Canadian Cattlemen's Association says a beef breeding cow found with mad cow disease on an Alberta farm was born in the province at a different farm.

Association spokesman John Masswohl says the Canadian Food Inspection Agency identified the birth farm.

"They've got the birth farm, which is important," Masswohl said Tuesday. "I understand that everything is in Alberta."

The food agency has not told the beef industry when the cow was born or how many other animals from the same herd may have consumed the same feed in their first year of life, he said.

In an email sent late Tuesday, officials at the federal food safety watchdog confirmed they had traced the cow to a specific farm.

"We have placed it under quarantine," said spokesman Denis Schryburt. "While the CFIA cannot disclose the exact locations of the farms for privacy reasons, both the index farm and birth farm are located in the Alberta North region near Edmonton."

He said there is no evidence a second animal was affected and said the investigation is ongoing.

Masswohl said the CFIA gleaned the location information from a cattle identification tag that producers are required to attach to a cow's ear, but Schryburt said the cow actually did not have that tag at the time of its death.

He said the CFIA used information from various sources, including an ear tattoo, to determine the cow's birth farm.

There appeared to be some discrepancy between agencies Tuesday about the regulations surrounding cattle identification tags.

Alberta Agriculture said including a cow's date of birth on radio frequency information tags has been mandatory in the province since Jan. 1, 2009, and was voluntary before then.

However, the CFIA said cows are only required to be identified with an approved tag once they are transported off a farm, adding that under the national identification tag program, birthdate information on tags is voluntary.

The federal government started bolstering the tag identification system after the 2003 outbreak of bovine spongiform encephalopathy that devastated Canada's beef industry. About 40 markets immediately closed their borders to Canadian cattle and beef products. Most of those markets have since reopened.

The tags are designed to help contain and eradicate animal disease by making it easier to trace individual livestock animals from birth to death.

The discovery of the BSE cow earlier this month prompted South Korea to suspend imports of Canadian beef.

Last year, Canadian producers sold $25.8 million worth of beef products to South Korea out of total beef exports of $1.9 billion.

Masswohl said the cattle industry hopes the trace investigation will be quick.

"The protocol that we have with South Korea entitles them to suspend their import clearances until Canada provides them with the information to assure them that our beef is safe.

"We are confident that Canada can provide that assurance."

The CFIA said so far no other countries have reacted to the most recent case of mad cow.

"Canada has reassured its trading partners of our control measures in place," said Schryburt.

"The World Organisation for Animal Health recognizes Canada as a controlled risk status country and we expect our trading partners to continue to recognize this status. While this decision is for individual countries to make, at this time no other countries have taken steps to restrict beef exports from Canada."

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