Monday, July 31, 2017

Two Weeks with No New PED Cases in Manitoba Cause for Optimism

Farmscape for July 31, 2017

New tools being used in Manitoba appear to be helping bring the spread of PED in the province under control.
Since the end of April almost 60 swine production sites in Manitoba have been confirmed infected with Porcine Epidemic Diarrhea.
On Thursday Manitoba Pork hosted a PED information session in Steinbach to update producers on the situation.
George Matheson, the Chair of Manitoba Pork, says there have been no new cases since July 14.

Clip-George Matheson-Manitoba Pork:
We're organizing a manure management group for the infected farms.
Of course equipment can become infected and we don't want a positive farm infecting a negative farm just by the transfer of manure equipment and spreading must be done soon.
Lagoons get full.
That's one approach we're taking.
Manitoba Pork has decided to employ a Swine Health Officer, a full time position, just to manage the situation with the help of the Manitoba CVO.
We've had three staff members, Mark Fynn, Arne Thorlacius and our General Manager Andrew Dickson who have been extremely busy for the last three months trying to get control of the situation.
We've decided that we need a new employee for this.
Also there has been a vaccine developed by VIDO out in Saskatchewan and it will be used on a trial basis.
It won't prevent it but it will reduce the symptoms and make things more manageable for an infected farm.
Those are three tools that we're using to get control of the situation.

Matheson says there have been no new cases in over two weeks and the hope is that we're looking at the start of a trend.
For Farmscape.Ca, I'm Bruce Cochrane.

       *Farmscape is a presentation of Sask Pork and Manitoba Pork

A New and More Virulent Hog Infection Invades Manitoba

Dr. Blaine Tully - Canadian Association of Swine Veterinarians
Farmscape for July 28, 2017

The President of the Canadian Association of Swine Veterinarians says swine veterinarian in Manitoba have stepped up their focus on addressing a new more virulent strain of Porcine Reproductive and Respiratory Syndrome.

A new more virulent strain of PRRS, a viral infection that affects pigs of all ages and stages of growth, has been identified in Manitoba.
Dr. Blaine Tully, the President of the Canadian Association of Swine Veterinarians and a partner with Swine Health Professionals in Steinbach, says genetic sequencing to determine whether it's related to strains experienced in Manitoba or other parts of the country have shown that its kind of a lone wolf.

Clip-Dr. Blaine Tully-Canadian Association of Swine Veterinarians:
We have about 12 or 15 farms, the majority of which are in southeast Manitoba but we do know there's farms in the Interlake and out into central Manitoba that have been infected.

At this point the swine veterinary community has joined together and is somewhat dovetailing in with our PED response and we're looking at doing a lot more epidemiological evaluation of farms that are infected with this new strain of PRRS, where they're located, how related the new strains are, because once PRRS infects a pig and starts replicating the nature of the virus is to mutate slightly each replication and so we get variations within strain families.

So we're looking at relatedness of viruses by sites and trying to map out potential transmission routes or events.

Dr. Tully says pork producers and the veterinary community have been in a heightened biosecurity awareness mode for many months due to PED and fortunately all of the safeguards being put in place to protect farms from PED apply to reducing the risk of introducing PRRS.
For Farmscape.Ca, I'm Bruce Cochrane.

       *Farmscape is a presentation of Sask Pork and Manitoba Pork

RELATED: "Mystery hog disease to become common on Prairies: vet"

Thanks to climate change, forest fires will likely become more common and widespread in Canada.

Environmental Research Letters

Control fire -- NWT, Canada. (USDA Forest Service photo.) 
As summer weather becomes increasingly drier and warmer, the risks of forest fires increase and their manageability decreases. A new study has modelled the key forest fire factors in boreal forests within the framework of changing climate models, and the results aren't hopeful: future forest fires will likely rage stronger and be much more difficult to contain than ever before. Researchers looked at three main predicting factors in forest fires: forest fuel types (in other words, what burns up in a forest fire: species of trees in the forests, type of forest and shrub cover, presence of lichens, wood chips or mosses on the ground surface); weather scenarios for the next 80 years; and fire behaviour (how the fire will spread, how fast it will travel, how intense it is, etc.) Their findings showed that the proportion of days in fire seasons with the potential for unmanageable fire will increase across the Canada's forest, more than doubling in some regions in northern and eastern boreal forest.

Friday, July 28, 2017

More evidence on link between antibiotic use and antibiotic resistance


Health Authorities in Europe are concerned about the impact of use of antibiotics on the increase in antibiotic-resistant bacteria. The report presents new data on antibiotic consumption and antibiotic resistance. Story here.
Hogs in a "confined animal feeding operation." Feed for such animals often contains antibiotics, not to treat sickness, but to promote growth and add value at market time. Wikimeida Commons photo. 

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Industrial hog production is leading to devastating issues for Manitoba

Vicki Burns and Janine Gibson.
For the last three decades, hog production in Manitoba has become increasingly industrialized with the number of pigs per barn jumping to the thousands and the number of actual pig producers dropping from over 14,000 in 1971 to a mere 200 today.
The pigs that are the basis of this industry are often referred to as animal units. The production system is under constant pressure to produce more piglets at less cost, resembling an industrial assembly line.
The pigs never see the light of day or have the opportunity to root in straw or breathe fresh air.
How far we have moved from family farming to this industrial model, where thousands of animals are kept inside buildings with minimal human contact, feed is automated and they must live above pits of their own feces and urine.
This industrial hog production that dominates the Manitoba landscape is resulting in devastating issues that are in the headlines now.
Porcine Epidemic Diarrhea (PED) has now infected more than 50 barns in Manitoba, caused the death of thousands of piglets and is creating fear about how widespread this epidemic will become.
The intense confinement of thousands of animals in barns closely located to each other is a significant part of the problem.
The hog barn fire near New Bothwell in June killed 3,500 pigs, bringing the total number of pigs killed in barn fires over the past decade to 64,000.
But instead of seeing this as a problem to be solved, the Pallister government — with Manitoba Pork’s support — has reduced the fire-safety regulations in the barn building codes to require fewer fire alarms, fewer smoke detectors and cheaper firewalls.
The use of sub-therapeutic antibiotics in hog production is part of a growing worldwide problem of antibiotic-resistant bacteria, such as MRSA.
Small amounts of antibiotics are fed to the pigs to allow them to grow in industrial conditions.
T. Khanna, R. Friendship, Dewey and J.S. Weese in 2007 showed MRSA is common in pigs and provides further support to concerns about transmission of MRSA between pigs and humans.
Other studies are demonstrating the presence of antibiotic-resistant bacteria in manure lagoons and nearby groundwater (J.C. Chee-Sanford, et al.).
The pigs are not the only things that suffer in industrial production.
The environmental impacts are very real, as evidenced by the declining water quality of many lakes, most notably Lake Winnipeg.
Phosphorus and nitrogen in the animal manure, which is spread on fields as fertilizer, runs off and gets into waterways that end in Lake Winnipeg.
These nutrients feed the sometimes toxic blue-green algae blooms that occur each summer. The phosphorus and nitrogen causing the algal problems also come from human sewage and chemical fertilizers, but there is a correlation between the expansion of the hog industry in Manitoba from two million to eight million pigs per year in the 1990s and the doubling of the phosphorus in the lake from 0.05 mg/l to over 0.10 mg/l (Bunting, L., P.R. Leavitt, et al.) in that time period.
Since the closing of the single-desk marketing system for pigs in the mid-’90s and the resulting vertical integration, the hog industry has seen many ups and downs financially.
In 2008, Canadian hog producers were actually paid $50 million to decrease their sow herd size as the market price had dropped so low.
There are other models of hog production, similar in some ways to the family farms of decades ago.
One such model is organic management, which is good for the animals, good for the environment and good for people.
In Quebec, organic hog farming has taken hold and now accounts for 10 per cent of the industry with revenues of $25 million annually.
In Manitoba, we still have a few small-scale hog farmers who are feeding the growing public desire for humane and organic meat, a market that is expanding every year.
The Canadian Organic Trade Association has verified that more of the income from organic production remains in local communities, providing healthier direct agricultural employment (Crowder, D; Reganold, J.P. Financial Competitiveness of Organic Agriculture on a Global Scale, 2015).
The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, in their 2017 report The Future of Food and Agriculture, states "Business as usual is not an option."
The industrial model of hog production is simply not sustainable and Manitoba would do its hog industry a favour by pushing for more ethically, environmentally and economically sustainable methods.
Vicki Burns and Janine Gibson are members of the Hog Watch Manitoba steering committee.

Monday, July 24, 2017

Is big oil committing fraud to stay in business?


Canada’s oilsands  have been sucked into the bitter legal fight around Exxon and climate change. Story here.
Overburden removal - Suncor Mine - Alberta. 
Photo by Beautiful Destruction.

Residents Near Mount Polley, BC Disaster Fear Time Running out for Justice


Days before deadline to lay provincial charges, authorities have not completed investigation. Story here.

With More Ships in the Arctic, Fears of Disaster Rise

When the Crystal Serenity, a 1000-passenger luxury liner, sails in August on a month-long Arctic cruise through the Northwest Passage, it will have a far more utilitarian escort; a British supply ship.  Story here.

A decades-long drought on the Canadian Prairies? It's possible, says author!

The Western Producer
A 50-year-long drought may not be as crazy as some people think. According to a new book, it actually happened on the Prairies and not that long ago. Story here.

'The entire species could become extinct': Crowdfunding underway to save Manitoba butterfly


The rapid decline of a tiny butterfly living in an equally small patch of Manitoba has prompted the Nature Conservancy of Canada to take action in hopes of saving the species from extinction. Story here.

Sunday, July 23, 2017

Satellite snafu masked true sea-level rise for decades

Rush hour pollution may be more dangerous than you think

In-car air study of commuting cars finds dangers to human health. Story here.

Traffic jam in Jasper Nat'l. Park CA. PinP photo.

Oilsands insider wanted for questioning in Exxon probe


A Canadian oilpatch insider has suddenly become a key figure in a high-profile investigation of a possible climate change "fraudulent scheme" at fossil fuel giant Exxon Mobil. Story here.

Saturday, July 22, 2017

Exxon Fined $2M for 'Reckless Disregard' of Sanctions During Tillerson Era

"It's time Rex Tillerson step down or be removed," said Gigi Kellett of Corporate Accountability International, following an announcement on Thursday that ExxonMobil will pay $2 million for violating U.S. sanctions against Russian officials while the now-secretary of state was the company's CEO. Story here.

Friday, July 21, 2017

Ancient Italian fossils reveal risk of parasitic infections due to climate change


Rise in trematodes could occur much sooner than thought, according to new study. Story here.

Yellow papillae flatworm or trematode 
in Micronesia. Photo by Betty Wills.

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Study Calls for Rapid "Negative Emissions" as Scientist Warns "Shit's Hitting the Fan"

Common Dreams

New study, led by James Hansen, is meant to bolster climate kids' case against the federal government. Story here.

There’s literally a ton of plastic garbage for every person on Earth

The Washington Post

More than 9 billion tons of plastic has been produced since 1950, and the vast majority of it is still around. Story here.

Plastic waste on a beach in India.
Photo by Hajj0 ms

Hog Barn Fires – Where’s the Humanity?

By Vicki Burns
About a month ago, three thousand, five hundred pigs died horrible deaths in a hog barn fire near New Bothwell, in southern Manitoba. Sadly, it was just the latest in what has become an all-too-familiar occurrence in this province.
Trapped in a fiery inferno, the animals would have likely suffocated in the smoke before the flames actually took over.
It’s hard to imagine the terror and panic that must have gripped them in those moments. Firefighters battling such disasters say they’re often haunted for a very long time by the sound of their screams.

The animals that perished there, bring the total number of pigs to be burned alive over the past decade in Manitoba to 64,000.

Surely you’d expect a rational, caring government to respond by immediately tightening fire safety regulations. Instead, it’s doing just the opposite. It’s moving to change building codes to allow for fewer fire alarms, fewer smoke detectors and cheaper fire walls!

And surely you’d expect an industry that claims to be both humane and  “business-savvy,” to support a move to greater safety, too. Yet, in its apparent zeal to expand and save a few bucks on new barns, Manitoba Pork is actually supporting Pallister in the de-regulation process!

According to Mike Teillet of Manitoba Pork, the barns seldom have any humans in them anyway, so there’s no need for more exit doors. But what about the animals? Surely modern technology can find a way to allow them to escape, too! Otherwise, aren’t these structures just death traps waiting to happen?

The government and Manitoba Pork seem to be giving us the message that they are content with the status quo; that hog barn fires are simply a risk of this industry and that nothing more can be done. How many more pigs will have to suffer this needless and excruciating end?

What more powerful indication can there be that the hog industry and government have become so desensitized to the fact that these are living, sentient creatures? The pigs that are the basis of this industry are often referred to as “animal units,” to describe how much they weigh and how much manure they produce. The production system is under constant pressure to produce more piglets at less cost, resembling an industrial assembly line. Thousands of pigs live under one roof jammed into spaces so small that sometimes they can barely move. The female pigs (sows) are kept in gestations stalls from the age of 6 months till they are culled around 2 years of age. The stalls are so small the sows cannot even turn around and can barely take a step or two  forward or backwards. They never see the light of day or have the opportunity to root in straw or build a nest before giving birth.

How far have we moved from family farming to this industrial model, where thousands of animals are kept inside buildings with minimal human contact, feed is automated and they must live above pits of their own feces and urine?

Manitoba Pork and the government are sending a clear message about their attitude toward the issue of hog barn fires. Instead of letting us know what they will do to fix this problem, they are saying it’s not worth fixing. Their justification is that the relaxed regulations will reduce costs of barn construction by one or two percent.
Is this really how a civilized society wants to allow its animals to be treated, even if those animals are destined to be on someone’s dinner plate?

If thousands of our beloved cats and dogs were routinely dying in fires in animal shelters there would be tremendous pressure on government to put a stop to it. But, because the thousands of pigs are hidden behind closed doors in these institutionalized barns, the public is much less aware of their plight. Our guess is that, once that awareness grows, the public's taste for pork will diminish.


Monday, July 17, 2017

B.C. wildfire smoke triggers air quality statement for southwestern Manitoba


Smoke could cause issue for people living with asthma, irritate eyes. Story here.

Will God Save Us From The Wildfires?

by Larry Powell

Did you hear them interview Walt Cobb on CBC Radio this week about the BC wildfires? 

They asked him if he thought, as the world's leading climate scientists do, that wildfires have become "the new normal."

Here's his response.

“I don’t necessarily agree with that. There’s always been changes…Like my wife said the other morning…this is in somebody else’s hands… God has lined up what’s going to happen. And we’ll have to live with that."

So who is Walt Cobb, you ask? Some ordinary guy off the street? Not exactly. He is the Mayor of Williams Lake, B.C. (l.) That's a city of 10 thousand - now almost a ghost town. It was ordered evacuated due to unprecedented fires burning in the region.

Does he strike you as a guy who has a clue about the science? I can't really see him being on the front lines of efforts to wean ourselves off fossil fuels toward more sustainable, renewable energy sources. Can you?

If that is the most he has to offer, as an important elected representative, he needs to step aside and let someone who, instead of having their head in the heavens, has both feet on the ground.

I know plenty of people who believe in God yet still embrace the now well-proven science of manmade climate change, too. Obviously, Mayor Cobb is not one of them. His is an example of religiosity that is not harmless and a walking example of the need for a clear separation of church and state.


Sunday, July 16, 2017

Could Rudolph and friends help to slow down our warming climate?

Environmental Research Letters
Reindeer photo by Arild Vågen

Reindeer may be best known for pulling Santa’s sleigh, but a new study suggests they may have a part to play in slowing down climate change too. Story here.

Thursday, July 13, 2017

Insecticide found in same B.C. hummingbirds that are in decline


A rufus hummingbird, one of the kinds in decline. Dean E. Biggins

'No one has ever measured pesticides in hummingbirds before. So we decided to try it,' says scientist. Story here.

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Most effective individual steps to tackle climate change aren't being discussed


Governments and schools are not communicating the most effective ways for individuals to reduce their carbon footprints, according to new research. Story here.

Insecticides damage bee socialization and learning skills, study reports


Wikimedia Commons

Researchers find that bees fed with thiacloprid (a neonic) significantly reduces their social interactions, suggesting that foraging bees that encounter high doses of insecticide in the field may be less likely to recruit others to nectar sources. Story here.

2.1 billion people lack safe drinking water at home, more than twice as many lack safe sanitation

World Health

Some 3 in 10 people worldwide, or 2.1 billion, lack access to safe, readily available water at home, and 6 in 10, or 4.5 billion, lack safely managed sanitation, according to a new report by WHO and UNICEF. Story here.

'When Rising Seas Hit Home': Hundreds of Towns Threatened by 2100

Common Dreams

Daunting new report shows coastal communities are at-risk and unprepared for flooding caused by climate change. Story here.

The cycle of mercury pollution in the Arctic tundra

Human activity has been a major source of mercury pollution in 

the Arctic, and a new study has identified the form most often 

taken by the pollutant: gaseous elemental mercury (GEM). The 

present News & Views article discusses how the Arctic tundra 

acts as a major sink for mercury, as the local plants uptake GEM 

from the atmosphere; and what this means for the global mercury 

cycle as global temperatures warm. Isotopic data collected in the 

original study by Obrist et al. reveal that GEM accounts for 90% of 

the mercury in plants, and the uptake of GEM by plants is 

especially high in the summer. Since plant matter decomposes 

into the soil, the Arctic soil may soon become a substantial 

mercury sink.

Anthropogenic activities have led to large-scale mercury pollution in the Arctic, but it remains uncertain whether wet deposition of oxidized mercury via precipitation and sea-salt-induced chemical cycling of mercury are responsible for the high Arctic mercury load. This paper presents a mass-balance study of mercury deposition and stable isotope data from the Arctic tundra, and finds that the main source of mercury is in fact derived from gaseous elemental mercury, with only minor contributions from the other two suggested sources. Consistently high soil mercury concentrations derived from gaseous elemental mercury along an inland-to-coastal transect suggest that the Arctic tundra might be a globally important mercury sink and might explain why Arctic rivers annually transport large amounts of mercury to the Arctic Ocean.

Iceberg almost the Size of Lake Winnipegosis breaks off Antarctic ice shelf


Satellite data confirms ‘calving’ of trillion-tonne, 5,800 sq km iceberg from the Larsen C ice shelf, dramatically altering the landscape. Story here.

The Larsen ice shelf as it was in 2004. NASA photo.

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Parisitic birds use oil and gas infrastructures to prey on prairie songbirds - Study.

Royal Society Open Science 

We're only beginning to find out all the ways in which industrial activity disrupts the ecosystem, and a new bird study gives yet another example of the unexpected ways in which human activity affects the local fauna. Researchers at the University of Manitoba have found that the presence of oil and natural gas infrastructure—such as fences, power lines, and transmitters around oil wells—in Canada's Northern Great Plains helped boost the number of brown-headed cowbirds by four times. Cowbirds are a parasitic species who lay their eggs in other birds' nests, forcing others to raise their brood. The parasitic species uses oil and gas infrastructures as perches, and the availability of perches makes it easier for these birds to find their brood hosts. 

Savannah sparrow. Photo by D. Gordon E. Robertson
Cowbirds' abundance in the area could hurt another grassland bird species, the Savannah sparrow, which often falls victim to the parasitic birds. Researchers have observed a four-fold increase in brood parasitism of sparrows by cowbirds near the oil and gas infrastructure sites.

Massive B.C. coal mines are about to get a new owner. Why some are worried about Glencore’s record

THE NARWHAL Coal mine at Tumbler Ridge, B.C.  Jeffrey Wynne ,      If the sale goes through, the company will inherit a contamination proble...