PigTrace is an industry led, live animal traceability initiative to ensure protection, prosperity and peace of mind for the Canadian pork industry and its customers meaning every pig that comes or goes has a trace, no matter who, where or when.
The pig industry in Canada designed the new mandatory national pig traceability system to enhance capacity to track animals from farm to slaughter, and make Canada’s pork even more competitive on the world stage.

The amended regulations brings national consistency in the pig sector by building on what is already in place in some provinces, such as Alberta’s Swine Traceability System launched in 2011.

“A national pig traceability system will help protect the safety of our food supply and the health of the sector,” said AG minister Gerry Ritz. “It will also help reduce economic impacts associated with any future disease outbreaks and contribute to the reopening of export markets should an event occur.”

Jeff Clark, program manager of PigTrace Canada says PigTrace is running the database whose goals are to ensure protection, prosperity, and peace of mind for the Canadian pork industry and its customers. The program helps to improve the response to animal health or food safety emergencies minimizing the impact of market disruptions and supports market access.

“We feel a federally regulated swine traceability system is an important tool for protecting animal health and food safety,” said Curtiss Littlejohn, chair of the Canadian Pork Council’s traceability committee. “It’s important in today’s market the pork industry meets the growing global demand for food product attributes and the need to verify those consumer requirements with complete value chain traceability.”

Karl Kynoch, chair of Manitoba Pork says mandatory pig movement reporting will help enhance the competitive position of Canadian pork in international markets. The ability to trace animal movements is particularly valuable when dealing with disease.

“The faster that you can trace where the pigs travelled when a disease shows up, and we’ll use PED for an example, but when it shows up on a farm they need to do tracebacks,” he said.

Kynoch says investigators need to know the coming and goings of pigs of that farm suspected farm within the last two week period of discovering the potential outbreak.

The Manitoba Pork chair says traceability is very important in exporting pigs because the Canadian pork industry relies heavily on export markets.
“In Manitoba we export 90 per cent of the product and a lot of these other countries are wanting to know where their food comes from,” said Kynoch.

“They want to know that the food safety is followed up and traceability is one of the things that they look for. They want to know that we can trace a problem back.”
Clark says he started working on this file in 2005 with the original resolution coming from the Canadian Pork Council in 2002.

“This initially originated back in the BSE days, and even earlier back when the United Kingdom had foot and mouth disease so industry and government had been talking about getting better information system here in Canada,” said Clark. “It is really to protect our industry and recently with PED virus, my colleague spent two and half days calling producers trying to do a traceback. We can do it through PigTrace in less than a minute.”

He says there is a lot of trepidation out there on the landscape suggesting government and industry brought this down from the top. It has been brought down from the top. Just the sheer length of government and industry consultations giving all plenty of time to respond and voice concerns, and the outbreak of the PED virus is proof enough the timing appears to be about right.

“One really important distinction between our system and the one for the Canadian cattle industry is PigTrace isn’t so much animal focused,” Clark said. “We aren’t really trying to trace every pig, but rather the information we’re gathering is to link locations and vehicles, tracing the origin of those pigs and create a network of movement.”

Rolf Penner, a grain, special crops, and hog farmer at Morris, MB isn’t convinced the industry nor he needs this new mandatory program.
“While an interesting program, I’m not particularly pleased with it. I’m not sure whether it will do what it is supposed to do,” said Penner. “The gist of it is when pigs come to my yard I need to report it. When the pigs leave my yard, whether going to market or cleaning up the dead pigs, I have to report it to a central agency.”
He says everyone talks about how important this information is and how valuable it is and yet they draft him to provide the information.

“Certainly there is no monetary value in it for me as far as I can tell no one is paying me for my information. Basically another cost of doing business,” says Penner. “Years back they came out with the Canadian Quality Assurance program. Now they tell us that isn’t enough, consumers now need this really detailed tracking system.”
Clark says producers have a number of options available for movement reporting including a mobile application, a desktop application on the web and a toll free number. •
— By Harry Siemens