Ranchers Taking Advice To
'Shoot, Shovel & Shut Up'

By Kristen Enevold
Calgary Sun
Ranchers suffering from the mad cow crisis may be delaying the U.S. border from opening to live Canadian cattle after shooting, shovelling and shutting up. A 119-page report by Alberta Auditor General Fred Dunn suggests ranchers are following the mock advice of Premier Ralph Klein by abandoning cattle carcasses rather than taking them in for BSE testing.
And the government isn't doing enough in forcing ranchers to report diseased and dead cattle for provincial and national BSE surveillance programs, said Dunn.
"If the farmers do not respond professionally, if they don't respond appropriately and rather hold the samples from you -- i.e. just bury the dead cow -- then you run the risk of not getting sufficient (numbers) of the higher-risk ones to test," said Dunn.
"If you don't meet those testing samples, it is almost like you have had another BSE outbreak -- you could move the whole country up to another level and your borders are therefore not going to reopen."
Dunn said so far, Alberta has only tested 900 animals this year, but 2,700 are required by Dec. 31 to reach testing guidelines.
The Office International des Epizooties (OIE), which sets the global standard for BSE testing, can't penalize Canada for failing to reach those numbers, but they have the power to drop our national designation from a minimal BSE risk to a moderate BSE risk.
Alberta Agriculture Minister Shirley McClellan said meeting the testing levels will be a challenge, but it must be done.
The fear of the border staying closed, coupled with the high cost of getting rendering companies to pick up dead cattle for testing, has prompted several ranchers to take matters into their own hands, said one Alberta feedlot operator.
"I have heard of some farmers just dragging them out in the bush and leaving them for coyote bait," said Rick Bonnett, who feeds about 17,000 cattle south of Edmonton.
"There are lots of dead animals just lying around the country."
Gerald Hauer, the assistant chief provincial veterinarian for Alberta Agriculture, said that's exactly why the government needs to get cracking on an effective testing program.
"There is a reluctance to be that number three -- that third case diagnosed here," he said.
"With the notoriety that happened with that first case, there is a perceived reluctance out there."
Klein said in September that any "self respecting" rancher would have "shot, shovelled and shut up" when faced with sick cattle on the farm.
But those ranchers aren't doing the industry any favours, said one Strathmore-area rancher.
"It's simply not the right thing to do, and it's not a respectable thing to do at all," said Len Lausen.
And the northern Alberta farmer who sparked Alberta's mad cow crisis on his property last May, wouldn't comment yesterday, despite his agreement earlier with Klein's statement.
"We're still trying to get back on our feet with the couple of feeder calves we have," said Marwyn Peaster from his Wanham-area farm, near Grande Prairie.
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