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Breeders Need Clear, Immediate Solution To CEM/Border Issue

Published: March 30, 2009 6:22 pm ET

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Tammy McNiven, vice chair of Standardbred Canada and co-owner of Twinbrook Farms, has advised Trot Insider of some time-sensitive issues regarding the importation of chilled semen from the United States into Canada.

Due to an outbreak of contagious equine metritis (CEM) in the United States, breeders in Canada have been scrambling to find answers and solutions to new red-tape border issues which are causing nightmares for Canadian breeders.

"Due to the CEM outbreak in the United States, Canadian breeders have faced many issues this season with the importation of semen from U.S.-based stallions," McNiven told Trot Insider. "We're all looking for answers. Business is being affected, and this is something that must be cleared up for all involved."

Contagious equine metritis is a sexually-transmitted disease which can cause infertility in mares. The CEM problem has recently been an issue in the quarter horse breed, but to this point has not affected the North American standardbred industry. Nevertheless, due to the outbreak, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) has instituted mandatory, precautionary measures to curb the spread of the disease into Canada.

In the past, Canadian breeders importing chilled semen from U.S.-based stallions did not face any significant issues. The samples would be cleared as a regular package from customs. The semen would then be transported to Canadian breeders, who would inseminate their mares with the time and temperature-sensitive material.

The increased paperwork now required by the CFIA at the border has put a snag in the process. "Understandably, the CBSA (Canadian Border Services Agency) is now required to check the new mandatory CFIA paperwork on the semen due to the preventative measures," Dr. Moira Gunn told Trot Insider. "Therefore, in many situations, the containers in which the semen is being delivered are put aside until they are cleared by the CBSA."

With the delay in the process, semen is not getting delivered in time for breeders. Approximately 10 to 15 boxes of semen get shipped to Canada from the U.S. every day during breeding season. Schedules have been missed and windows have been closed, leaving stallion owners, Canadian breeders and everyone close to the process extremely frustrated.

"Let me make it very clear that fresh semen has a limited transit time," breeder Caroline Thornton, of Oak Knoll Stables, recently wrote to officials at Toronto's Pearson International Airport in regard to the logistical nightmare.

"Every hour after the 24-hour post-collection time reduces the motility of the product. Had this shipment been released at 10.00 a.m. (as expected) we would have inseminated the mare by noon yesterday and had a viable pregnancy. Instead, at 10:00 a.m. Fedex was informed that the soonest the customs people would clear the items was 1.00 p.m. At this point there were 10 people waiting for their product – 10 businesses now in jeopardy. In actual fact, the items were released at 3.00 p.m. in the afternoon. 10 individuals each spent five hours waiting for your staff to approve a critical package all to no avail."

"Physically, we now must have someone drive a long trip up to Harrisburg to deal with health papers when shipments get sent out," Jim Simpson, president of Hanover Shoe Farms, told Trot Insider. "It adds another level to the bureaucratic process and another expense. [At this point] I'm not aware of a [CEM] positive in the standardbred industry. We want to help all we can with the situation, and we are doing what we are told to do, but after the shipment is out of our hands, the situation is also completely out of our hands."

All Canadian parties that Trot Insider has spoken with have made it clear that the CFIA is taking the proper precautions in handling the CEM situation. Parties have also indicated that there is a course of action suggested by breeders close to the situation which would assist in reducing delays.

Some breeders have found success by pre-clearing semen shipments. As such, they recommend that U.S. stallion farms/centres should fax the courier tracking number of the semen shipment, and the copy of the stallion's U.S. health papers to the Fedex Customs Clearing Centre in Ontario as soon as possible beforehand. A copy of the import permit should also be sent to the Fedex Customs Clearing Centre as soon as possible. All three documents should be faxed to the Fedex Customs Clearing Centre at 905-293-6197 or 905-293-6198 as soon as possible beforehand.

These pro-active measures are said to expedite the pre-clearance of semen shipments for delivery in Canada, therefore giving semen shipments the best chance of avoiding the lengthy process.

Trot Insider is encouraging anyone with additional information which would aid in the situation to list it in the 'comments' section below.

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