Dr. Theresa Burns outlined three main diseases that impact or could cause issues in BC’s livestock and poultry sectors at a Centre for Organizational Governance in Agriculture webinar this week.
For the poultry sector, it’s no surprise that avian influenza is an ongoing concern.
Over the last year, the province has recorded 130 detections of AI, Burns says. About 10% of infections have been in smaller flocks with the balance being in the commercial sector.
“We have an early warning system for avian influenza virus in our wild birds and that’s been in place in the Ministry of Agriculture for quite some time,” Burns says.
The ministry is looking to use sediment analysis in ponds as a tool to detect and prepare for AI variants.
In the dairy sector, Salmonella Dublin can cause herd health issues. Infected adult cattle can experience abortion, mastitis or pneumonia. Calf losses can occur at six months of age. Ministry veterinarians are keeping tabs on the risk factors of the bacteria and are developing and validating diagnostic and risk assessment tools.
A closer look at laboratory submissions showed that the bacteria is more prevalent than expected.
“We were very surprised to see it in about a third of our dairy farms and that’s much higher than we’d anticipated,” Burns says, noting that funding through the Sustainable Canadian Agricultural Partnership will support research. “We’re probably going to be working with the dairy sector to determine if there’s something more that we should be doing collectively to look at Salmonella Dublin and limit its impact.”
For all livestock sectors, the Asian longhorned tick could pose a health risk.
The tick was introduced to the Eastern US and has quickly spread to Southern Ontario.
“A female does not need to breed to produce offspring. So, they have a really strong capacity to increase in numbers rapidly,” Burns says.
While the tick has yet to be discovered in BC, analyses show that areas in Southern BC are ideal for tick establishment.
“Our biggest risk is potentially long-distance movement either on migratory birds because it will attach to birds or on pets or cattle or horses that are moving across North America,” Burns says.
Burns has been working as the ministry’s chief vet since September 2022 at the Plant and Animal Health Centre in Abbotsford. Planning is ongoing for a new laboratory but due to the scale and scope, Burns predicts a physical building is between five and eight years away.