The discovery of a third farmed deer with chronic wasting disease (CWD) of deer is already having serious repercussions: 3,500 head of the operation that sells deer in Boileau, in Outaouais, will have to be slaughtered next month.
In addition, 12 other breeding farms in Quebec have been quarantined by the government. The surplus of slaughtered animals can create a surplus of meat in the market and lead to a significant price drop for other breeders. In addition, there is a risk that farm animals transmit CWD to deer and other wild deer in the province.
“We have been working for 25 years to obtain cutting-edge genetics. If we have to slaughter all our animals, we could lose millions”, comments Denis Ferrer, creative director at Cerf de Boileau. However, the manager hopes that all of his cattle are not slaughtered. “The three cases come from a single park. There’s nothing in the other parks or our other two farms. We are waiting for more results, but if there are no other positive cases, we hope that these animals [des autres parcs] not be shot down,” he said.
If the company slaughters its entire herd, it will have to get rid of its breeding stock for the meat price, which is five times lower, says Denis Ferrer. When the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) completes its analysis of the herd, it will be able to force the producer to decontaminate the soil where the sick animals lived or to ban breeding on the site for five years.
Where does the pathogen that causes CWD come from? Denis Ferrer assures him that he never bought animals from outside. However, he renewed his herd with seeds or embryos from Europe and New Zealand. The CFIA opened an investigation to try to discover the origin of the disease.
The interim president of the Association cerfs rouges du Québec says with concern that CWD is transmissible by both equipment and animals. “All deer and elk farmers are on alert. We have a phone meeting every week to discuss developments. We want to make sure that the disease is eradicated as quickly as possible,” says Gervais Therrien.
He adds that 12 red deer farms have been quarantined by the government. ” [Ces exploitations] bought one or more breeding males [de l’éleveur touché]. They will be quarantined until slaughtered. This is also stressful! says Mr. Therrien.
The Quebec Department of Wildlife is keen to avoid contamination of wild deer, such as deer and elk, by farmed red deer suffering from chronic wasting disease. Indeed, the consequences of such contamination would be catastrophic for wildlife, but also for the hunting industry and its $360 million annual spinoff.
The ministry has culled more than 150 deer so far within a 7.5 km radius of the breeding farm and none have been affected by the disease. Further afield, hunters have killed 230 deer so far and none have tested positive for the disease. “The work continues. We’ve set up a branch in the sector and a lot of people are investigating, because if it spreads to wildlife, there’s no vaccine or treatment,” says Nicolas Bégin, the ministry’s public affairs officer.
The destabilized market
The other element of fear for red deer breeders undoubtedly remains the imbalance in the market that is likely to be caused by too many animals being culled because of the chronic wasting disease. “Total demand for all breeders in Quebec is between 1,500 and 2,000 deer per year. If a company has to cut 3,500 at once, there will be a very large surplus and prices can become derisory. we would like them [les dirigeants de Cerf de Boileau] come to our information meeting [la semaine dernière] to reassure us, tell us to whom and at what price you intend to sell your meat. But they didn’t come,” laments Gervais Therrien, breeder and president of the Quebec Red Deer Association.