Saskatchewan dairy industry prepared in the event avian flu hits Canada

The spread of avian flu in U.S. dairy cattle supplies has the dairy industry here in Saskatchewan keeping a close eye on things.

Avian flu has appeared in dairy herds across 9 U.S. states since late-March, but it has not spread north of the border. The Biden Administration is committing $200-million to contain the H5N1 virus.

SaskParty MLA for Lumsden-Morse Blaine McLeod is a dairy producer in the Caronport area. Speaking about it during last Thursday’s first release of the Provincial Crop Report, McLeod says they’re monitoring the situation.

“What I’m told is not if it happens but when it happens and we hope that’s way into the future at some point in time,” McLeod said. “The consumers can be assured that we’re monitoring things closely and that pasteurization is the answer in terms of providing a safe product to consumers.”

He says when dairy cows get sick in general the protocol is to isolate and ensure the milk is discarded from those animals. 

“It’s protocols that largely have been in place for quite some time for us as a dairy industry. We’ve had a program of food safety and food quality assurance for the consumers and it’s just one aspect of that.” McLeod said.

It comes at a time when Saskatchewan’s diary industry has had its own challenges, other than the the HPAI concerns. McLeod says the cost of commodities to operate a dairy farm “have been really, really high” but are starting to see prices return to some level of normalcy that they’ve seen in previous years.

According to SaskMilk’s 2022-23 Annual Report, the province had 147 dairy farms as of July 2023. Total milk shipped last year was over 288-million litres, a decrease 2.2-million litres from the previous year.

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