The Captive Ungulate Program as it Applies to Farmed Bison

By Dr. Maria Koller
Senior Program Specialist
Disease Control
Animal Health & Production Division

March 13, 2001

In January of this year, representatives from the Canadian Bison Association (CBA) and the Animal Health Program of the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) met to discuss current issues and future directions relating to the Captive Ungulate Program (CUP) as it applies to farmed bison.

The CUP was introduced in 1989 to detect, control and eradicate bovine tuberculosis and bovine brucellosis in farmed bison and other non-traditional farmed species. In 1995, in consultation with the CBA, the CFIA modified elements of the CUP that deal with disease detection and surveillance in farmed bison. In 1997, farmed bison were removed from the regulations that require a permit from CFIA whenever farmed bison are moved within Canada. In part due to these policy and regulatory changes, and in recognition of the evolution in disease risks posed by various captive bison populations, it became necessary to confirm the current policy and identify those issues that need to be addressed in a comprehensive review of the CUP as it applies to farmed bison.

The following describes the agreements reached between CBA and CFIA representatives.

1. ‘Herd of Negative Status' designation

The CBA defines a herd of negative status as a captive bison operation which:

has had at least one complete herd test (all bison 18 months of age and older) performed by the CFIA, for bovine tuberculosis and bovine brucellosis, with negative results, within the preceding six (6) years; (Routine on-going surveillance testing by CFIA as described in Item 3 below meets this requirement.) or

has provided documentation to the CFIA demonstrating that the herd consists entirely of bison which have been purchased within the preceding two (2) years from herds that met the requirement in a) above at the time of purchase; or

met the requirements of a) or b) above in the past, and during the subsequent 24 month period, has provided documentation to the CFIA demonstrating that 10% of the mature bison herd has been subjected to surveillance measures for bovine tuberculosis and bovine brucellosis with negative results (Calculated as 10% of the number of bison 18 months & older on June 30th with a minimum of five (5) animals.) (Surveillance measures are: testing for tuberculosis & brucellosis by an accredited veterinarian for export or sale, or by the CFIA for export or any other purposes; and inspection and testing for tuberculosis & brucellosis at slaughter in a federally or provincially inspected abattoir.) (To count as a ‘credit' towards the 10% surveillance of a herd, the tested or slaughtered animal must have been in that herd for at least the preceding 3 months and it can only be credited to one herd.)

The CBA and CFIA advise all bison producers to:

a) maintain good records of identification births, deaths, sales, acquisitions and movements;

b) complete a movement record manifest for each bison that moves into or out of their herd that identifies each animal, its source and destination, and the date of movement. A copy of every movement record manifest should be provided to the CFIA District Office of origin and the CFIA District Office of destination; (The CFIA will maintain a file for each producer and will include the movement record manifest in the consignee's and consignor's respective files for use in the event that a trace back investigation is required)

c) identify all bison as soon as possible after birth with an approved unique tamper-proof identification device approved by the Canadian Cattle Identification Agency (CCIA) (As of January 01, 2001, the Health of Animals Regulations require bison to be identified with a CCIA approved device prior to movement for sale, export, or slaughter and following import. This form of required identification is reflected on the movement record manifest, in the CBA on-farm food safety program, and at points of sale.

d) add to their herd only bison that originate from a herd that meets the CBA definition for ‘negative status' designation; and

e) report any suspicion of bovine tuberculosis or bovine brucellosis to their CFIA District Office as soon as possible.

Upon request, the CFIA will provide eligible bison producers with a ‘Certificate of Negative Status' which will certify that the CFIA has conducted tests and/or reviewed documentation pertaining to the herd and has determined that the bison herd is a herd of negative status for bovine tuberculosis and bovine brucellosis as defined by the CBA.

The certificate will indicate that, for so long as no bison are added to the herd (except bison from herds that meet the CBA definition of negative status), the bison herd will retain this status for:

  • six (6) years from the date of the complete herd test if the herd is qualified under 1.a) above,
  • two (2) years from the date the first animal was purchased if the herd is qualified under 1.b) above; or
  • two (2) years from the anniversary date that was established through 1.a) or 1.b) if the herd is qualified under 1.c) above.

2. Review of the CUP as it Applies to Bison

The CFIA will convene a Bison Policy Working Group consisting of representatives from the CFIA, CBA, cattle industry, zoo sector, and provincial departments of agriculture with the objectives of:

examining the disease risks that may pose a threat to the tuberculosis and brucellosis free status of farmed bison in Canada;

developing appropriate surveillance, movement control, and other measures to address these risks; and

recommending changes to the CUP as it applies to farmed bison, specifically in relation to the CUP provisions for surveillance, negative status designation, movement controls and movement manifest records.

It is anticipated that this review will be completed and changes implemented by April 1, 2002.

3. On-going Surveillance

Pending any changes that may be implemented as a result of the review described in Item 2 above, the provisions of the CUP pertaining to routine disease surveillance testing will continue to be carried out by the CFIA. This means that the CFIA will continue to carry out a complete herd test (all bison 18 months of age & older) of all farmed bison herds in Canada every five (5) years, or as often as is operationally feasible. There was also consensus that once the amendments were made to the CUP that the herd test could eventually be dropped and on-going surveillance might then be conducted at slaughter.

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