Chronic Wasting Disease Herd Certification Programs
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On this page
- Overview of the programs
- Benefits of enrolment
- Third-party delivery
- Accredited veterinarians
- Federal regulations for farmed cervids
Overview of the programs
Chronic Wasting Disease Herd Certification Programs allow cervid owners and farm operators to demonstrate their herds are low risk for chronic wasting disease (CWD). Program participation means engaging in rigorous CWD surveillance and biosecurity measures. Enrolled herds are identified as a participants in Canada's national CWD compartment program of lower risk animals with respect to CWD.
Requirements are defined in the national standards, which are developed and maintained by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA). CFIA-accredited veterinarians supervise the activities. Provincial, territorial or industry organizations oversee and administer the programs. The CFIA audits the administering organizations. Herds of any cervids of the family Cervidae can participate in a CWD Herd Certification Program.
Status of the Voluntary Herd Certification Programs
The Chronic Wasting Disease Herd Certification Programs were previously known as the Voluntary Herd Certification Programs. The programs are unchanged in all ways, and are still voluntary. The word "voluntary" was removed to emphasize that all aspects of the programs are mandatory once enrolled. This change gives the programs better international recognition with our trading partners.
Decrease a herd's risk of chronic wasting disease
There are six risk levels in the program, starting from the entry level, E, through levels D, C,B,A, with the highest level being certified. The risk level of CWD diminishes with progressive successful participation in a program.
A herd must be enrolled in a program for a minimum of five years to reach the certified level. Because there is not a sensitive live animal test for CWD, a certified herd cannot be considered CWD free but is considered to be at low risk of having CWD. This provides cervid owners and farm operators a reasonable level of assurance of their herd's CWD risk level when purchasing cervids from a herd enrolled at an equal or higher level.
Meaning of the term compartment
A compartment is a group of animals with a distinct health status based on biosecurity management and husbandry practices. Herds enrolled in a program at level D or higher are considered a compartment of low-risk animals for CWD in Canada. The World Organisation for Animal Health (WOAH; founded as Office International des Épizooties (OIE)) recognizes the concept of compartmentalization.
How the programs prevent CWD
The CWD Herd Certification Programs use biosecurity management practices to prevent CWD from being introduced into a herd. Given that CWD is difficult to detect and impossible to treat, biosecurity is the most effective tool at a cervid producer's disposal to keep CWD out of a herd. For more information on diagnosis of and testing for CWD, see CFIA's Chronic wasting disease fact sheet.
The programs also have rigorous surveillance requirements that provides early detection in cases where a herd is infected. Biosecurity, coupled with early detection, helps protect enrolled herds.
The national standards for the Herd Certification Programs had significant updates made in 2017 which were implemented in 2018. Given CWD's long incubation period, it will take 3-5 years to determine the effectiveness of the updated standards. Any enrolled herds that become positive for CWD before 2022 were likely exposed to the disease before the upgraded standards were implemented.
Herds enrolled in the Chronic Wasting Disease Herd Certification Programs
4 pillars of the programs
The CWD Herd Certification Programs are built upon 4 pillars:
- maintaining complete and accurate inventory records
- ongoing testing of all slaughtered and dead cervids
- limiting herd introductions to cervids enrolled in an equal or higher program level
- CWD biosecurity measures
Participation is not mandatory
Cervid owners and farm operators are not required to participate in the program. However, once a herd is enrolled, owners and operators must comply with all requirements.
Benefits of enrolment
The program requirements are designed to allow cervid owners and farm operators to:
- prevent the introduction of CWD
- detect CWD early in the rare instance a herd becomes infected
Enrolment identifies the herd as a participant in Canada's national CWD compartment program of low-risk animals with respect to CWD and are considered for the CFIA's compartment CWD disease response. The compartment response includes compensation if CWD is found in the herd.
Enrolment also increases market access as some cervid export requirements are based on CWD Herd Certification Program enrolment.
- regional administrator's annual fee
- laboratory fees for CWD testing
- accredited veterinarian service fees
Fees vary regionally. Contact your regional administrator for more information.
If a herd gets Chronic Wasting Disease while enrolled in the program
Only herds that are participating in a CWD Herd Certification Program will be considered for the CFIA's CWD compartment disease response. Learn more about compensation and disease response:
- What to expect if your animals may be infected
- Updates to the federal management of chronic wasting disease in farmed cervids
Herds not participating will not be considered for CFIA's CWD compartment response or associated compensation.
Quality assurance for prospective buyers
Marketing cervids and cervid products (such as velvet) as low risk for CWD infection provides added quality assurance to prospective buyers. Some provinces, territories, and countries will only allow import of cervids and cervid products from herds certified on a CWD Herd Certification Program. For more information, contact the veterinary authority of the province, or territory, in which you wish to market your cervids and cervids products.
Export live cervids to the USA
USA export certificates for live cervids can only be issued for cervids at the certified level in a CWD Herd Certification Program. You can get more information by contacting your local CFIA Animal Health District Office.
CFIA is the national administrator of the programs, responsible for:
- ensuring integrity and international recognition
- developing and maintaining the national standards
- evaluating domestic and foreign programs for equivalency
- auditing domestic programs
- overseeing CFIA-approved laboratories that test for CWD
Regional Chronic Wasting Disease Herd Certification Programs in Canada
The regional programs are administered independently from the CFIA. There are 3 regional programs in Canada.
A shared responsibility
The CWD Herd Certification Programs are delivered and implemented through co-operation between:
- cervid owners and farm operators
- accredited veterinarians
- regional administrators
- regional status assessors
- Canadian Food Inspection Agency
The roles and responsibilities of each participant are detailed in the national standards.
Regional administrator's role
There are 3 regional administrators in Canada:
- Alberta Agriculture and Forestry
- Canadian Sheep Federation
- Yukon Agriculture Branch
The regional administrator is responsible for:
- overseeing enrolment in the regional program
- outlining all policies and procedures in a standard of operating procedures
- administering enrolment and advancement procedures
- issuing status certificates
- training status assessors
Contact information for regional administrators
Status assessor's role
Each regional program has a status assessor, who determines if all requirements have been met before a herd is enrolled in the program. Assessors also annually verify that requirements are still being met. If the assessor finds requirements are not being met, they must suspend or revoke the herd's status.
Contact information for status assessors
Cervid owners' and farm operators' responsibilities
Cervid owners and farm operators are responsible for meeting program requirements and maintaining compliance. They work with accredited veterinarians and approved third parties (such as provincial and territorial staff of the game farm department and animal health technicians) to complete these program elements:
- reconciling inventories
- inspecting premises (including fences)
- monitoring herd health
- developing an environmental biosecurity plan
- collecting and submitting samples
Accredited veterinarian's role
The accredited veterinarian's role is very important to the program. They are responsible for helping cervid owners and farm operators:
- understand the scientific basis for program requirements
- fully implement the program requirements
- develop a CWD environmental biosecurity plan that meets all program requirements
Accredited veterinarians are also responsible for:
- inspecting herds and premises to verify herd health and implementation of the biosecurity plan
- performing cervid inventories
- verifying the reconciliation of inventories
Find an accredited veterinarian
To find an accredited veterinarian for the CWD Herd Certification Program function:
- ask your herd veterinarian if he/she is accredited by the CFIA for this function or interested in providing this service
- contact local veterinary clinics to see if any of the clinic's veterinarians are accredited by the CFIA for this function or interested in providing this service
- contact your local CFIA Animal Health District Office to find out if there are veterinarians accredited by the CFIA for this function in your area
Any veterinarian can become accredited by the CFIA for the CWD Herd Certification Program function as long as he/she meets the requirements outlined in the Accredited Veterinarian's Manual. Veterinarians can get more information by contacting the Animal Health District Offices.
Federal regulations for farmed cervids
Contact your local CFIA Animal Health District Office to learn about federal regulations Canadian cervid producers must follow, including movement permit and identification requirements.
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