After record-breaking attendance in 2022, Ontario fairs amid the post-pandemic rebuild face a new challenge related to livestock and animal movement.
Innovative fertilizer alternatives offer new options for growers
A soil analysis technology and a pelleted insect frass fertilizer are among the 10 innovations that have received funding under…
The Canadian Food Inspection Agency has proposed changes to the identification and traceability portion of the Health of Animals Act and they could significantly impact Ontario’s fairs and agricultural societies.
The CFIA proposes that fairgrounds be responsible as the “intermediate site” to record animal movements to and from the fairgrounds within one week of that movement. As well, if an animal loses its identification tag at a fairground, it would be up to the site operator to apply a new one.
Why it matters: CFIA amendments could lower volunteer numbers at fairs and livestock shows because of new responsibilities for animal traceability.
Agriculture societies support the CFIA’s enhanced livestock identification and traceability objectives, especially concerning animal health and wellness, public health and the overall success of Canada’s agriculture industry, said Vince Brennan, executive director of the Ontario Association of Agricultural Societies.
However, he said it is untenable to put the onus on agricultural society volunteers to efficiently and accurately record movement of animals.
“We’re grouped with slaughterhouses, market yards, feedlots, where when you drop (animals) off, you give up care and control of that animal,” said Brennan. “But that is not the case (for us).”
Agricultural societies and fair organizers provide space to house and show livestock, but the breeder/owner or 4-H member is responsible for animal care and wellbeing.
Kathryn Lambert, 4-H Ontario’s coordinator of events, said her organization tracks each animal’s movement and collects premise numbers for any events at which members show.
“(Animals) are always in the care of the owner while they’re at the show. They’re not in the hands of the fair hosting the event, so it shouldn’t be their responsibility,” said Lambert.
Brennan said some agricultural societies have already indicated they might cancel livestock shows if the amendments go through as proposed.
“(They’ve said) we won’t have the volunteers to manage this,” he said. “All we’re asking for is to let the responsibility (of reporting movement) remain with the owners.”
Lambert said the show ring allows 4-H members to parade all they’ve learned and allows them to network and interact with friends from other clubs.
“This element of (the CFIA’s) proposed legislation isn’t practical, considering they’re working with volunteers already stretched to the limits,” said Lambert.
4-H Ontario lost about 700 volunteers, or 35 per cent, during the pandemic so additional burdens on those remaining could further erode that number, said 4-H Ontario executive director Christine Oldfield.
“(Required)” indicates required fields
Lambert said not every ag society would cancel livestock shows because a core group of volunteers would likely persevere. Still, she’s under no illusion that some regional and local fairs will cancel if no one steps up.
Fairs and exhibitions often possess a premise number but don’t have the technology or labour force to collect, aggregate and report traceability information accurately. That concerns Julian Brown.
“We feel a healthy ecosystem of fairs is critical to our shared success,” said Brown, director of agriculture and education for the Royal Agricultural Winter Fair. “Without opportunities for exhibitors to show at local and regional fairs, it becomes more challenging to exhibit at the Royal.”
Although he said the fair is a leader in reporting, data collection and education for exhibitors and the public, the amendments create challenges for them, too, said Brown.
“The Royal will ensure we are compliant and support the (CFIA’s) ultimate decision made surrounding enhanced identification and traceability,” he said.
“But I do urge that deep consideration be given to the unique challenges faced by fairs, exhibitions and agricultural societies in implementing the proposed regulatory amendments.”
Last year a survey of 500 to 600 livestock participants showed that 90 per cent of owners/breeders want to be responsible for reporting the movement and tagging of their animals, not the fair to which they bring livestock.
“When will the urbanite ever be able to pet a cow or a calf or see them being milked or prepared for the shows? It’s so important,” said Brown. “I think the (Ontario) agriculture minister is realizing the same thing … and we’re hoping to get a letter of support (from her).”
Several other organizations in Ontario and across Canada are crafting letters to submit to the CFIA before the June 16 consultation deadline. Members and livestock owners are being encouraged to do so as well.
“Hopefully, we can get enough letters of support and get (the CFIA) to reconsider what they’re proposing here,” said Brennan. “They’ve made some concessions to some of the other groups.”