Livestock Border Closure
Stage 1 - Summary
Table of Contents
1. Purpose of the Plan
2. Core Proposition
3. The Background and Rationale
4. Stage 1 Report Conclusions
5. Stage One Report Recommendations
For Stage One of the project, the OMAFRA contingency planning team
was tasked with researching and analysing existing plans, background
information and the potential impacts a border closure would have
on the economy in Ontario, Canada and subsequently on the livestock
production and processing industries.
Purpose of the Plan
To secure a formal action plan to be implemented in the event that
the border between Canada and the U.S. or another significant trading
partner is closed to the export of livestock and livestock products
from Ontario. The goal of the final plan will be to help maintain
infrastructure and maximize sustainability of the pork and beef
production and processing sectors during any disruption to border
The plan will be developed in two stages and will include sector
specific analysis. The plan will focus on the hog and cattle industries.
First, a review of existing plans, background information and assessment
of potential impacts of a border closure will be conducted. The
second stage will involve developing strategies in cooperation with
industry to mitigate the impacts. This report completes stage one.
The Background and Rationale
Events in the recent past have shown the enormous impact of border
closures on the viability of livestock industries in Ontario. The
closure of international borders (the U.S. border in particular)
to Canadian ruminants and ruminant products in response to the discovery
of bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) in Alberta has cost the
Ontario economy at least $945 million . This has led to a real recognition
in the province of the vulnerability of the livestock sector to
border closure threats such as a foreign animal disease outbreak.
Stage 1 Report Conclusions
There are many scenarios that could lead to Ontario borders being
closed to the export of livestock and livestock products. Among
others, these could include food safety issues, political/trade
issues, disasters and pandemics. The most obvious, however, would
be a foreign animal disease (FAD) outbreak in the province.
Regardless of the reason for the border closure, it is clear from
the research conducted for this report that Ontario would experience
major impacts. Economic losses for export markets alone would total
$23 million per week for both beef and swine. Further estimated
losses of $13.5 million and $25 million per week for the swine and
beef industries, respectively, could be faced if sales and movement
within the province are totally restricted. This does not include
the effect on rural businesses that deal directly with producers
or the 19,000 production workers in the province whose jobs depend
on meat products manufacturing. Therefore, a plan that attempts
to help mitigate these potential impacts is needed
In discussions with various industry partners there is no doubt
that this issue is of great concern. The cattle industry has seen,
and is still experiencing, the effects of the discovery of BSE in
2003 that closed international borders. The pork industry has identified
the potential for market collapse as a key issue. The feed industry
recognizes the potential impact that a border closure could have.
In the current climate the key focus of the livestock industry remains
on the immediate response to a FAD. However, work on dealing with
the potential market surplus of livestock and livestock products
resulting from a border closure has only begun, although many lessons
have already been learned from the discovery of BSE in western Canada.
In general, industry welcomes OMAFRA's involvement in attempting
to develop a contingency plan.
In the case of a FAD, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA),
under the authority of the Health of Animals Act would have the
lead role in stamping out the disease. Recognizing this, the CFIA,
Emergency Management Ontario (EMO) and the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture,
Food and Rural Affairs (OMAFRA) together have developed a Foreign
Animal Disease Emergency Response Plan (FADERP) to coordinate efforts
in the event of a FAD outbreak.
The Ontario Ministry of Transportation (MTO) is currently developing
plans to deal with truck traffic at the U.S. Windsor border crossing
in the event of a border closure. The need for special considerations
for livestock transport in such a situation is recognized and is
being incorporated into these plans.
However, Ontario has no detailed or coordinated plan to deal with
the business continuity issues that would result from excess healthy
livestock and safe livestock products that no longer have a market
because of a border closure.
Other provinces have done varying degrees of work on contingency
planning for a border closure related to livestock. Manitoba is
in a similar position to Ontario with respect to the pork industry,
in that large numbers of pigs are exported and would have no market
within the province if the border closed. However, Manitoba's plan
centres on the designation of mass burial sites for disposal, but
offers no solutions on business continuity. Alberta has a plan for
the immediate emergency rerouting of animal transports in the event
of a border closure, but again has no specific plans for business
Saskatchewan is now requiring that any new livestock operations
covered under the Agricultural Operations Act have a mass carcass
disposal plan. The province is also encouraging existing operations
to develop similar plans when plans are renewed. While at first
glance this might seem like a useful idea, population density and
livestock operations on small land bases, particularly in southern
parts of the province, might make this difficult to institute in
Nationally, the Pork Value Chain Roundtable has focused attention
on this issue and the potential resulting market collapse. A working
group report submitted to the Roundtable in September (2006) made
a number of valuable recommendations centering on four key areas:
- Preventing the build up of supplies by avoiding the problem
- Maximizing domestic pork sales
- Maintaining an export presence
- Managing hogs on the farm
OMAFRA staff has been sharing information with the Roundtable regarding
this effort and will continue to liaise with them as work on this
issue progresses. It needs to be recognized that the issues that
would be evident in a border closure would not be unique to Ontario
and although Ontario needs to prepare for the potential of a border
closure, a national voice is also needed when dealing with national
borders and international trading partners.
The United States has a National Center for Animal Health Emergency
Management. However, the primary focus appears to be on disease
surveillance and eradication, not on addressing surplus animals
and products because of a national border closure.
Some individual states within the U.S have begun to examine business
continuity issues. Iowa has created a Center for Agriculture Security
and, although the primary focus appears to be emergency response,
one of their listed responsibilities is to assess the threats and
vulnerabilities to the agriculture industry. Further investigation
of this organization might be warranted to determine if there are
ideas that could be transplanted to Ontario.
North Carolina appears to be the state that has done the most work
to push FAD response beyond disease eradication to include business
continuity. This was spurred by a short state to state border closure
situation, which occurred due to a Foot and Mouth Disease (FMD)
scare. The ideas provided from North Carolina are worth pursuing,
however, in order for them to be effective the trading partners
involved must agree on standards before an actual disease outbreak
or other border closure incident happens. Also, while such agreements
may be possible, state to state or province to province, developing
standards and having them accepted on both sides of an international
border is a much more difficult proposition. Even if an agreement
based on solid science could be reached it could still be thwarted
by political realities. However, the potential benefits make it
Dr. J.P. Vaillancourt DVM, University of Montreal and formerly
with North Carolina State's College of Veterinary Medicine suggests
that a first step to developing an agreement with the United States
on border closure issues would be to build some direct relationships
between Ontario and its significant trading states. If there is
mutual agreement then national authorities could be approached on
both sides of the border to attempt to work towards a recognized
Internationally, there has been a great deal of work done on planning
for FAD response and eradication, but less has been done to deal
with the business continuity issues of a border closed to exports
from healthy animals and safe product. Some of this is likely due
to the degree of a country's dependence on exports.
Taiwan's solution to their 1997 FMD outbreak and the subsequent
loss of export markets was to essentially downsize their industry
to domestic needs. While this is an option that any jurisdiction
must seriously and realistically consider, particularly if the situation
is not easily controlled, the goal of the Livestock Border Closure
Contingency Plan will be to help maintain infrastructure and maximize
sustainability of the beef and pork sectors.
The U.K., Denmark and Australia all have extensive disease response
plans, but border closure contingency /business continuity plans
do not appear to be as detailed.
The Netherlands has experienced several disease outbreaks and the
resulting fallout from a border closure situation. In the pork industry
they have used insemination bans, aborting of sows and the killing
of young piglets to deal with excess supply. Insemination bans and
abortion of sows were not well received by producers because of
the disruption to sow herd management. On the other hand veterinarians
were opposed to killing of young piglets for ethical reasons. Nevertheless,
these ideas should be further explored in an Ontario context.
Miranda Meuwissen of the Netherlands' Institute for Risk Management
in Agriculture, Wageningen (IRMA) suggests there are only a few
options for dealing with an excess supply of healthy animals in
In zones with movement restrictions:
- Euthanize and dispose of the animals
- Slaughter and store the meat
In the case of emergency vaccination:
- Discuss before a FAD outbreak the selling opportunities of
meat from vaccinated animals (and make sure that proper zoning
does not affect the selling opportunities from the non-affected
While these are options for use within zones with movement restrictions
they nevertheless would equally apply to the Ontario situation of
healthy animals and products outside these zones with no immediate
For Ontario, slaughter and storage capacity issues would seem to
dictate that the slaughter and storing of meat is difficult to implement.
Creation of internal zones within the province may also present
difficulties because of the province wide nature of the livestock
industry and rapid movement of livestock throughout the province.
It also needs to be recognized that any agreements with trading
partners on zoning would ultimately need to be developed on a national
level because trade is a federal issue. There appears to be value
in the West Hawk Lake project which would create an east/west division
of the country. However, since this is a national issue Ontario
can only encourage this work to move forward. If, beyond these efforts,
euthanizing and disposing of the excess animals is the only other
option left then best options need to be developed to carry this
out in the most effective manner that balances business continuity,
environmental and ethical concerns.
Canadian consumers are already world leaders in the consumption
of pork and beef. As noted, projections for changes in consumption
by 2020 include a 3% increase for pork but a 14% decrease for beef.
Therefore, there is no natural trend toward a major increase in
consumption. While the discovery of BSE did prove that maintaining
consumer confidence, together with extensive marketing campaigns,
can in fact increase consumption it also showed that there is potential
to negatively affect consumption of other meat proteins. Despite
the BSE experience, the risk of losing consumer confidence and a
resulting drop in consumption may be greater than the opportunity
to maintain or increase consumption. Either way, consumer confidence
will be a key factor in determining the impact of a border closure
and an effective plan to maintain that confidence is vital.
Ontario has an overall positive trade balance in fresh, frozen
and chilled pork. Based on 2005 national trade data, if the border
were to close to pork, Ontario consumers would need to consume an
extra 7 kg of pork per year per capita, an increase of 28%. It would
be unrealistic to suggest that this is possible.
Overall, beef trade balances have been volatile due to the BSE
situation in Alberta. However, using the same 2005 trade data, if
the border were to close to beef, Ontario consumers would need to
consume an extra .9 kg per capita or 3%.
It is important to keep in mind that these numbers do not include
live hogs and cattle that would normally be exported and would also
be adding to the surplus.
As expected, trade data suggests that the U.S. is Canada's major
trading partner accounting for 82% of beef exports and 42% of pork
exports. In addition, almost all Ontario live cattle (net trade
balance of $39 million in 2005) and live hog exports (net trade
balance of $210 million in 2005) are sent to the U.S. To illustrate
the magnitude of the problem over 43,000 live pigs are exported
from Ontario every week. These would have no market should the border
close. Therefore, a border closure involving the U.S. would obviously
have a devastating impact. With respect to pork, Japan is also a
major trading partner at 36% of pork exports and a border issue
with that country would also have serious repercussions.
Ontario's feed industry would be affected to varying degrees depending
on their reliance on export markets. Also, the ability to access
specific feed ingredients may be more limited and, therefore, could
affect profitability for both feed companies and producers.
Due to Ontario's huge reliance on export trade in livestock and
livestock products, maintaining positive relationships with our
trading partners needs to be a key focus for both industry and government.
Domestic consumption cannot sustain the current production of either
the beef or pork industries. Every effort needs to be made to prevent
a border closure because BSE has shown that re-establishing lost
markets is difficult and comes with added restrictions and costs
that reduce profitability but must be absorbed.
Excess capacity to house, slaughter or dispose of surplus animals
within Ontario is relatively minimal when compared to the large
numbers of animals that would need to be managed. On-farm the beef
sector has an obvious advantage in managing surplus animals. The
pork sector is in a much more precarious position and could see
major on-farm impacts within a week of a border closure.
Slaughter capacity hinges on markets for the product. In the event
of a border closure the use of any excess capacity would depend
on the availability of markets. The greater danger may be that slaughter
plants could close if product cannot be exported, creating an even
larger volume of surplus animals. Even if alternative markets could
be found storage capacity would be the limiting factor to increasing
slaughter volumes. At the same time barriers to the creation of
increased slaughter capacity within the province should be thoroughly
investigated to see if there are options for their removal.
Rendering capacity is also near maximums under current regulatory
limits. In fact, most of Eastern Ontario is serviced by Quebec based
facilities. While there are some opportunities for additional capacity
to be brought on-line, markets and the ability to render on weekends
are hurdles that need to be addressed.
Prevention of a border closure incident remains the best avenue
to help mitigate its impacts. With respect to a FAD, biosecurity
is a key component. Depending on perceived risk, biosecurity levels
vary across livestock sectors. A recent study by the Ontario Livestock
and Poultry Council showed that biosecurity is a higher priority
in the pork industry than in the beef sector but it also showed
there is still room for improvement in all sectors. A lack of national
standards and verifiable protocols has hampered further progress.
In addition, biosecurity awareness must be improved among small
hobby farmers. Overall, Ontario needs to further enhance biosecurity
in the province.
Traceability through premise identification and animal movement
controls would greatly aid efforts to control a FAD, but could also
prove useful in other border closure events. Therefore, efforts
to enhance traceability need to continue to be supported.
Legislative authority to properly deal with surplus animals and
product in the event of a border closure is also an issue that needs
further investigation. In the event of a FAD the CFIA would have
immediate authority to deal with the disease. What needs to be realized
in this situation is that the CFIA's authority begins and ends with
the stamping out of the FAD. Any excess livestock and livestock
products outside CFIA's mandate to control the disease would need
to be dealt with domestically in Ontario if the border was closed.
Since there are potential reasons for a border closure other than
a FAD, who would take the lead role in dealing with these situations?
Would it be industry or government (Provincial/Federal), or both?
If farms need to be depopulated how would this be carried out and
by whom? Which farms would be chosen and would breeding stock be
protected? These questions must be answered and the potential need
for additional legislative authority needs to be investigated.
Communication and cooperation between industry partners and government
would also become a key issue during a border closure. Ontario needs
to consider further developing the necessary links to facilitate
this. The need for information, including that of the general public
can be satisfied through a coordinated approach.
In evaluating all the structural and economic impacts, the human
impact must not be forgotten. If farms are being depopulated or
businesses are forced to shut down due to a closed border, this
presents challenges for people whose livelihoods are in jeopardy.
Maintaining support systems and business continuity plans will be
crucial to avoiding a severe human toll, as well as the potential
loss of industry expertise.
Overall, the livestock industry is working hard to deal with the
immediate fallout of a FAD, but has not yet devoted significant
resources to the potential for market collapse resulting from the
large surplus of animals and product that would develop in the wake
of a border closure. Research for this report clearly shows that
a plan is needed to help mitigate the impacts of a border closure.
Stage One Report Recommendations
The recommendations have been grouped under a number of key headings.
1. A coordinated livestock border closure contingency plan should
be developed and would be welcomed by industry.
2. Explore options for the prevention of incidents that could cause
the border to close. Prevention is the best solution to the potential
3. Promote continued efforts towards improved provincial biosecurity.
Consider the development of standard protocols and possible need
4. Support the implementation of current and future traceability
5. Examine the value of the West Hawk Lake Project and whether Ontario
should make efforts to help move this and other potential zoning
6. Encourage development of a strategy to develop biosecurity in
non-regulated and non-commercial species including backyard flocks
and other hobby farm animals.
7. Consider the expansion of training and programs for first responders
involved in prevention, biosecurity and mass carcass disposal prior
to a border closure.
8. Maintain communication and a co-operative working relationship
with the National Pork and Beef Value Chain Roundtables as they
develop plans to deal with a potential market collapse.
9. Investigate the necessary communication and information links
with industry and other levels of government that would be needed
to deal with a border closure situation.
10. Develop a communications and awareness strategy the public for
border closure issues.
11. Further develop and support direct relationships with U.S. states
that import a large percentage of Ontario's livestock with the intent
of working towards common trade goals with national authorities
on both sides of the border.
12. Develop a communications and awareness strategy for industry
(primary producers, processors and related service providers) for
border closure issues.
13. Review the legislative authority needs of the province to enact
orders and strategies for surplus animals in a border closure situation
whether resulting from either a foreign animal disease (FAD) or
non FAD event.
14. Consider who will take the lead in a border closure incident
caused by a non-FAD, as well as the individual responsibilities
of both industry stakeholders and government.
15. Develop an action plan with industry to deal with orderly marketing
in the event of a border closure.
16. Species specific plans for dealing with the impacts of a border
closure event should be considered.
17. Investigate options and strategies for managing surplus healthy
18. Ensure that housing and feeding options for extending on-farm
times and delaying marketing for various livestock commodities have
been fully explored and documented keeping in mind animal welfare
19. Investigate options for managing surplus meat products.
20. Investigate and document proper euthanasia methods for depopulating
21. Encourage completion of a mass carcass disposal options plan.
22. Investigate the potential limitations to increasing slaughter
capacity within the province and whether these limitations can be
23. Explore possible solutions to the limitations on additional
capacity in the rendering sector particularly as it relates to weekend
24. Consider options should processors or renderers find themselves
inside a restricted movement zone in the event of FAD.
25. Feed ingredients that are currently imported may have to be
manufactured domestically. Evaluate whether these ingredients can
be manufactured domestically, and if not, why not.
26. Investigate options for business continuity programs from farm
through processing in order to help maintain the infrastructure
and sustainability of Ontario's livestock sector through a border
27. Identify potential financial support for the supply chain to
assist in finding solutions to the impacts of a border closure.
28. Investigate the current availability and further need for support
services that would help individuals and families through difficult
circumstances (both financial and stress related).
Stage 2 of the project will be using these recommendations as the
basis for developing a livestock border closure contingency plan.