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History of Swine Traceability in Canada

PigTrace Canada is an industry-led initiative of the Canadian Pork Council (CPC).

Formed in 1966, the CPC is composed of membership from the nine provincial hog industry organizations, representing the national interests of over 12,000 hog producers.  The CPC focuses on the advancement of the Canadian hog industry through a variety of national and international initiatives, covering areas such as nutrition, on-farm food safety, animal care, animal health and the development of PigTrace Canada, the national traceability system for Canada's swine sector.

For many years, the Canadian hog industry has enjoyed an excellent herd health status.  However, with animals and meat traded internationally in unprecedented quantities, and more people than ever travelling abroad, animal health and foreign animal disease preparedness are key priorities for the industry.

In July, 2002, the CPC received a mandate from its members to coordinate the development of a national traceability system for pigs, from birth to slaughter.  This resulted in the formation of the CPC's National Hog ID and Traceability Working Committee, which has worked towards the implementation of a federally enforceable Canadian swine traceability system.

In 2003, the CPC's National Hog ID and Traceability Working Committee (the Committee) began the design and development of a Canadian Swine Traceability System that would assist in quickly containing foreign animal disease outbreaks.  Since that time, program development activities have been coordinated nationally through the Committee, which is comprised of representatives from the swine genetics sector, Canadian Meat Council, as well as producers and staff from Canada's provincial pork organizations.  The goal of the program was for the swine sector to:

  1. identify swine premises and their location;
  2. identify animals;
  3. record and report the movement of animals between the premises.

Early on, consideration was given for unique individual identification of animals with ear tags for all swine.  Very quickly, a number of industry representatives questioned that strategy since swine primarily move as groups.

It was also recognized that reporting animal movements using individual identifiers for all swine would be time-consuming and costly to producers, while any additional benefit to disease monitoring would be minimal.

In 2005, the Committee concluded a lengthy pilot study that investigated and field tested a variety of methods for reporting the movement of swine using group and individual identification.  The intent of the study was to identify the most effective and efficient model for a national swine traceability system, meeting the conditions required for an animal health or food safety crisis.

Trials were conducted with an understanding of the importance of knowing:

  1. Where animals came from prior to arriving at a particular premises;
  2. The premises they were shipped to;
  3. Relevant dates; and
  4. The transportation units involved.

Furthermore, it was generally recognized that, from a Foreign Animal Disease (FAD) perspective, all animals on any given premises have the same health status.

The pilot study concluded that individual identification offers greater precision, compared to group identification, when tracing the spread of disease (e.g., precision to the individual animal level rather than just the barn level).  This may or may not be of any additional advantage to disease response efforts by CFIA since, as noted above, all animals on any given premises have the same health status.

The study further asserted that individual identification does not improve traceability in the event of a propagating disease epidemic when compared to group identification.  Nonetheless, in addition to group identification, the study concluded there are cases where animals need to be individually identified (not necessarily unique, but always linked to last premises) and reported for optimal traceability of pig movements.

In February of 2009, upon recommendation from the Committee, the CPC Board of Directors decided that it was in the best interests of Canadian producers to select Agri-Traçabilité Quebec (ATQ) as the sole service provider and database manager for the national swine traceability system.  A licensing agreement was signed between the parties in March of 2009, and the development of a core platform for the traceability database and movement reporting system began.

In August of 2009, the CPC officially trademarked "PigTrace Canada" as the name of the national swine traceability program guided by the Committee, and copyrighted a new logo.  This was accompanied with the launch of the PigTrace website and the sale of the national swine traceability ear tag.

PigTrace Canada currently uses a centralized ordering and distribution process for the national swine traceability tag in partnership with a single manufacturer, AllFlex Inc.  This allows PigTrace Canada to offer an extremely cost-effective national tag, and avoids the complexity of managing multiple tag manufacturing and distribution options.

On May 14, 2010, the CPC welcomed the announcement of the Canadian federal government's Phase I committment of $3.3 million to further the development of necessary resources associated with PigTrace Canada.  The funds allowed for national staff support at the PigTrace Canada offices in Winnipeg, Manitoba and were put towards the creation of a world class database system through enhancements to the core platform developed by ATQ.

On February 10, 2011, PigTrace Canada continued to move forward with the announcement of a further approximate $3.7 million.  A portion of those funds have been allocated for the education of Canadian producers and other system users in order to ensure that movement reporting, as will be required by federal law, is as cost-effective, straightforward and simple as possible.

PigTrace Canada is proud to continue working towards a world class swine traceability system.  The information that will be collected can be used to contain and reduce the spread of a potential foreign swine disease so that it can be controlled and eliminated thus, drastically reducing the negative impact that such an occurrence would have.