USA - Cattle Feed Companies Need More Regulating
May 02, 2012
A contaminated cattle feed case dating back to 2007 has a local rancher still searching for remediation from those responsible.
Shane Scott is one of 10 producers across Saskatchewan who had contaminated feed delivered to their cattle operation in early 2007.
The incident occurred when Saskatoon Processors Company, a division of West Coast Reduction Ltd., delivered the wrong material to Federated Co-operatives Ltd. (FCL).
The feed, which contained bone meal, was then distributed to producers.
Scott and his wife, Michelle, ranch 18 miles south of Piapot, but also own property 25 kilometres northwest of Maple Creek where they ran a cattle operation.
It was at that operation that about 3,000 of Scott's feeder cattle and three-quarters of his cow herd were fed the bone meal.
As a result, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) issued a quarantine in February 2007 on all cattle that had potentially consumed the contaminated feed.
The majority of the livestock was then removed from each location by CFIA.
Five years later, Scott said he still has not received compensation for the substantial losses incurred at his cattle operation.
He received a lower price for the cattle that were sent to slaughter, but he said he has not been compensated for feeding the cattle while they were quarantined.
The quarantine lasted 120 days, during which time Scott said he paid over $1 million to feed the livestock.
"When those cattle were locked up starting in February and the last ones left at the end of June when they would normally be out on pasture, we lost all our surplus," he explained. "We fed it up and never got paid for it."
The fallout from the situation has been devastating, Scott said, as his operation now grosses a quarter of what it did prior to the contamination. Once employing three people, he now only has one.
"It just weakened us to the point now that you look at our place and there's nothing left. It basically bankrupt us," Scott stated.
"We're just now... starting to make money again. We basically went 2007 to 2010 losing money... until we were able to stop the bleeding and start going the other way."
AgriStability assistance from the government, two years of good crops and better cattle prices have helped turn the situation around for the couple, but Scott said the contamination had a long-lasting effect on the Southwest.
"We had suppliers in Maple Creek that we couldn't pay," he stated. "Why is that fair that the suppliers on good will have to take a hit? Why can a feed mill deliver the wrong feed and cause a big quarantine and have no consequences?"
While FCL offered producers short-term, interest-free loans in light of the soaring costs of keeping the livestock, Scott said the loan only pushed his operation further into debt.
The Scotts are working on building a case to take FCL to court for delivering the contaminated feed.
"We went through the next steps of mediation, but to get it to court is a huge amount of money," Scott said.
An investigation into the matter concluded West Coast Reduction was at fault as a result of delivering the wrong material to FCL.
But because the incident occurred before the implementation of the enhanced feed ban – which made it mandatory for all specified risk material (SRM) to be removed from ruminant animals prior to consumption by humans or animals – no fines were issued by CFIA.
"In this case, the actual error occurred at the rendering facility, not at the feed processor. Because this was prior to that enhanced feed ban, no monetary penalties were (issued)," explained Alex McIsaac, a disease control specialist with CFIA, noting the enhanced feed ban was not put in place until July 2007.
"Now that we have the enhanced feed ban, most likely we would probably fine in a case now. But back then when we took everything into consideration, there was no point in fining."
In a letter to Saskatoon Processors Company from FCL in March 2007, it was stated Saskatoon Processors and its parent company, West Coast Reduction, would accept full responsibility for the situation and would take all steps necessary to cover the losses of FCL, its customers and the farmers affected.
When West Coast Reduction was contacted for comment, the company stated its settlements are confidential and it "cannot comment on the remaining claim."
FCL was contacted as well and did not return phone calls.
The Scotts are also questioning CFIA's response to the contaminated feed issue.
They are seeking answers as to why the organization removed some of the livestock from the quarantine and left others.
When CFIA removed exposed cattle from the Scott's operation, it left 15 to 20 cows behind. In addition to the Canadian Cattle Identification Agency (CCIA) tag the cows already had, they were given a blue CFIA tag to identify them as having potentially ingesting bone meal.
The other cows from the herd that were under quarantine were cleared by the organization and returned to pasture without a CFIA tag.
Scott does not believe CFIA followed proper protocol.
"If you've got a quarantine, why do you just put a little blue tag in them and just forget about it?" he said. "It's something they never really cleaned up."
McIsaac said the cows were left at the location because CFIA was only taking the feeder cattle to be slaughtered.
"The other ones that were left behind were the cows, so they're staying there to produce calves for the rest of their life," he stated.
According to McIsaac, the cows can be traced by the CCIA tag and CFIA tag.
"In order for these animals to go through the normal marketing process... those two (tags) are cross-referenced. So if one was lost, the other one is still there and it's recorded in the CCIA database," he stated.
But one of Scott's exposed cows has already lost both of its tags.
"If the tags fall out and somebody sells them, how do you keep track of them?" Scott questioned. "I don't know what the world would think of our system."
CFIA reported the livestock that consumed the bone meal posed no health risks, but was unfit for export.
"There's no food safety or animal health risk at all associated with the meat or the products from these exposed animals, because our policy is to remove the SRM from the carcasses," McIsaac explained.
"The only risk was that it wasn't allowed to be exported... because they're not allowed to be exposed to (bone meal)."
According to CFIA, the cattle removed from the quarantine locations were taken to a feed lot and later to a slaughter establishment.
"There was no need to tag those, because we had those under control. We just issued the license to move from the farm to the feed lot and then from the feed lot to the slaughter establishment," McIsaac said. "(The slaughter establishments) then have their inventory controlled to make sure that the product doesn't get sent for export markets and it stays for domestic consumption."
Scott requested a report from CFIA to ensure the cattle taken from his ranch were properly removed from the system. The information was never provided, he said.
- Source: Argentine Beef Packers S.A.
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