RDCK looking into solutions for safe disposal of cattle carcasses in the Creston Valley

There is an estimated 3,000 to 4,000 head of cattle in the area, on medium and small-scale farms.

  • Jul. 10, 2018 11:30 a.m.

For beef and dairy producers, the occasional deaths of their animals are a part of doing business. But for some farmers in the Creston Valley, those cattle carcasses can be a significant challenge.

There is an estimated 3,000 to 4,000 head of cattle in the area, on medium and small-scale farms. As part of their regular farming activities, it is the responsibility of beef and dairy producers to deal with the carcasses of dead animals—known as deadstock—according to regulations.

What is the specified risk material (SRM)?

According to the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA), SRM is defined as:

• the skull, brain, trigeminal ganglia (nerves attached to the brain), eyes, tonsils, spinal cord and dorsal root ganglia (nerves attached to the spinal cord) of cattle aged 30 months or older; and

• the distal ileum (portion of the small intestine) of cattle of all ages.

What is the specified risk material (SRM)?

According to the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA), SRM is defined as:

• the skull, brain, trigeminal ganglia (nerves attached to the brain), eyes, tonsils, spinal cord and dorsal root ganglia (nerves attached to the spinal cord) of cattle aged 30 months or older; and

• the distal ileum (portion of the small intestine) of cattle of all ages.

CFIA requirements for handling SRM are designed to ensure the material is permanently contained and/or destroyed. These rules allow producers to handle their deadstock “on-farm”, thereby containing the material to the farm where the animal was raised; otherwise, the material must be transported and disposed of under CFIA permit. Once transported, approved off-farm permanent management of SRM requires specialized landfills or incineration functions.

However, there is no CFIA-permitted disposal option within the Regional District of Central Kootenay (RDCK) or anywhere close to the Creston Valley. The closest disposal site is in Lethbridge, Alberta.

There are increasing incidents of deadstock not being adequately managed on-farm and instead of being dragged into the woods, or left in fields or waterways.

In addition to the risk of spreading SRM into local herds, the presence of deadstock carcasses in the Creston Valley can lead to environmental and general safety concerns. Many of the cattle farms are located near surface water or high groundwater tables, which creates the potential for water contamination from decaying carcasses or carcasses that fall into Kootenay Lake or River.

Deadstock also attracts scavengers, including grizzly bears, which increases the potential for bear-human conflicts.

These considerations are part of the complexity of this issue and reveal the economic, environmental and social aspects of managing deadstock and SRM in the region.

Last summer, the Creston Valley Beef Growers Association (CVBGA) wrote a letter to the federal, provincial and local governments outlining their concerns and proposing alternative ways of management.

“We are requesting RDCK’s involvement in providing an affordable and timely solution to this issue,” said Larry Rast, then-president of the CVBGA, in the letter. “We request that the RDCK Resource Recovery Plan consider including livestock carcass material in the waste stream at Creston landfill.”

Management of animal material is not a local government area of responsibility. But given the emerging concerns in the Creston Valley and the importance of agriculture as an economic and livelihood driver, the RDCK Board felt it critical to respond.

At the beginning of June 2018, the RDCK received Investment Agriculture Foundation (IAF) funding and hired two consultants to complete an overview study of the issues related to SRM disposal in the Creston Valley and possible solutions.

“I know how vitally important agriculture is to our communities, which is why I supported this study,” said Larry Binks, Director of RDCK Electoral Area C. “Beef and dairy production is an important part of the landscape of the Creston Valley. 3% of milk of BC is produced in this Valley. I want us to find solutions and continue to support producers and their families while still creating healthy conditions and good environmental practices.”

Consultants Holly Suggitt and Ruth McDougall are working with CVBGA and other meat and dairy producers. The concerns of the CVBGA have been integrated into the study, and a final report is expected later this summer.

The RDCK encourages those who wish to be involved in the study, or who would like more information, to contact Paris Marshall Smith, Sustainability Coordinator at pmarshallsmith@rdck.bc.ca or 236-532-2016.

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