Two Mad Cows in 10 Days A Coincidence - Canada Chief Vet
The Canadian Food Inspection Agency confirmed a case of brain-wasting BSE in an Alberta dairy cow on Jan. 2, and announced Tuesday it had found another from an unrelated Alberta purebred beef farm.
"The frequency with which the last two cases has been detected is indicative of random occurrence," Brian Evans told reporters.
Evans said officials expected to unearth an additional small number of cases as they stepped up testing for the disease after finding the country's first home-grown case in May 2003.
A US case found in December 2003 was also traced back to a cow born on an Alberta farm.
Canada tested more than 23,000 cattle for mad cow disease in 2004, targeting old and sickly animals considered to be at highest risk.
If Canada had a high level of mad cow disease, it would be showing up in younger animals, Evans said.
The small number of cases shows Canada is a low-risk country for the disease, a veterinary expert at the University of Saskatchewan said.
"You have to remember that we may have found two positives, maybe in the same week, but they're on the back of 24,000 negative cases," Chris Clark said in an interview.
"I think it's really just unfortunate statistical chance that we found these two cases back to back," Clark said.
It's bad timing for cattle farmers, who desperately want to ship young, live cattle to US processing plants.
A groundswell of opposition to plans to relax trade bans in place since Canada's first case was building among US farmers even before Tuesday's announcement, said Stan Eby, a farmer from Ontario.
"This will give them more fuel for their position, that's what bothers me as much as anything," said Eby, president of the Canadian Cattlemen's Association.
The latest case was born after a 1997 ban on using protein made from cattle and other cud-chewing animals in cattle feed -- a ban designed to prevent the spread of mad cow disease.
Officials believe the Charolais cow, born to a 90-head herd in March 1998, ate feed manufactured before the ban, which could have been left over at the farm or a feed mill.
"As a farmer, I know what that's like: bagged material can sit in storage for extended periods of time," Eby said.
There was no government recall of feed when the ban went in place, Eby noted.
(Additional reporting by Jeffrey Jones in Calgary)