The real cost to farmers of achieving bTB free status abroad - Canada Print this pagePrint this page

This is a particularly horrifying tale and a terrifying example of the lengths some countries go to in order to keep their TB free status. It demonstrates too how easily mix ups can happen. It is always the cattle owners and their families that suffer. The consequences for them are hard to endure and can be financially crippling. In September 2007 the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) discovered Bovine Tuberculosis (bTB) in a bull being slaughtered in Quebec. The CFIA claimed the bull had come from the Weinhardt ranch, near Vanderhoof, although Lynn Weinhardt, has always steadfastly denied this. Lynn says she knew it wasn’t one from her farm because the positive bull was a red angus, and they hadn’t had a red angus bull on their farm since 1999 and she said, “He broke a leg, so we had to butcher him”. The cattle they had shipped around the time of the bovine TB discovery in Quebec were charlais, and black angus. However, the CFIA were insistent. The bull in question was alleged to have been shipped from the Weinhardt ranch to Innisfail, Alberta, from there to Ponoka Alberta, then to a feed lot in Rimbey, Alberta and then to a slaughter house in Quebec. Lynn has always claimed that it was a result of human error that this bull was linked to her ranch and now, in 2010, after three years of hell for her and he family, she has now been proved right.

Despite the uncertainty regarding the identity of the bull slaughtered in Quebec, the CFIA were keen to slaughter all the animals on the Weinhardt ranch. Lynn commented at the time that the scientists looking at the results of the testing of her supposed bull said that the bTB was a different strain to that which had hit Manitoba. It was apparently unlike any strain they have ever seen before.

Undeterred, the CFIA pressed on with their request for the other animals on the farm to be killed. Lynn said that none of the 47 cows, 2 bulls and 17 calves that the CFIA later took tested positive, yet these animals were all killed in September 2007 after being transported to a slaughter house in Westwold BC. They left other animals on the ranch, including four dogs. Lynn said, "We have to give the CFIA a history of one day in the life of the dog and a 365 days history, they also haven’t take the pigs, 13 sows, 3 boars and 26 feeders yet, nor have they taken the sheep. They say they are looking at leaving them." The sheep included 35 ewes and 2 rams. There were also 2 goats, pigs and the Weinhart’s special rescued llama, Monty; "He is our guard dog, he looks after the cattle, the sheep, everything thing on this ranch. We don’t want to lose him, he is priceless", she said. However, all these animals were doomed. In 2008 they were all seized and killed by the CFIA. The CFIA would not even allow the family to bury their Monty on their ranch and instead loaded him into a trailer and removed him from the ranch. Monty had come to the farm abused and suffering from various bruises, an injured eye, plus other wounds from being badly treated. Lynn had said; “We nursed that animal back to health, he was part of this family and all we wanted to do was to have him buried on our farm”.

As well as having to deal with the personal losses, the family had to deal with public perception and image issues. In December 2007 eight people, including reporters and nearby ranchers, met at the Weinhart ranch to discuss the matter. Lynn said,"We have been trying to let people know who we are and why they shouldn’t be afraid of us. We have to dispel some of the fear that exists, and the most helpful people have been the ranchers living around us." Eight to ten ranches in the area, including two other nearby farms, had been placed under quarantine. One had used Weinhardt’s land to graze his cattle another rancher had used the services of the supposedly infected bull for his herd.

Lynn stressed this had been a very trying time for her family;"We just have to take one step at a time."

There was no bTB found in any of the animals killed. The family faced financial disaster and were never properly compensated. Over the last three years they have had to sell about 480 acres of their land to raise money, but that process took six months to complete as the CFIA came back to conduct more tests to ensure the farm was clear of bTB.  They did not receive the $1300 per cow they were told they would get. At the time they received a total of $1,262.76 compensation. Lynn said "That is all the money we have been handed over that period of time to run this ranch and to live on."  The money, she says, was from the slaughter house for payment for her livestock." We never received a single cent for the 42 pigs, just $19.13 cents for each of the cows." Pat Bell Minister of Agriculture said there was nothing the Province could do, "Our hands are tied when it comes to the CFIA they are not our jurisdiction. The federal government has responsibility over the matter."  Bell said he could work towards some financial assistance, "We will step in to ensure that this rancher receives appropriate compensation for her livestock. We already have extended loans to other ranchers in the area who were affected by the seizure of the cattle from Weinhardt."

“It has been hell” says Lynn, who says she and her two daughters have had to take jobs off the farm to make ends meet.

Lynn has maintained throughout that this was a case of mistaken identity  "There has not been one additional case of bovine TB from any of the other 1,000 animals that were tested from this area or those that came in contact with our bull. I have maintained from the beginning that this was not our bull".  

However, it was only in September 2010, three years later, that they received the news confirming that the Weinhardts had been right all along. Lynn says they received the news they always knew they would get in a letter from the CFIA saying the farm had no sign of the disease. “I said from day one, we don’t have it” says Lynn Weinhardt, “The fellow who delivered the letter to me was from CFIA and he said we will likely never know who really owned that bull.”  

For the Weinhardts it has been a very hard and long three years. Lynn says “But we’re a tough bunch, and we always kept our sense of humour.” She says she would like to sell some more of the farm, to reduce the size from the current 900 or so acres to somewhere around 60-100. “I would like to slow down a little, and maybe travel a bit. We lost a lot because of this, but we are still alive and we have our health.”

Case study written 14/10/10

With thanks to Northern Health (250 News) for this information 15/10/10

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