Guidelines and Eligibility Criteria for the Ontario Chronic Wasting Disease Voluntary Surveillance Project for Farmed Cervids

Q1 - Why Is Ontario Testing Farmed Cervids For Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD)?

A1 - The Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs (OMAFRA) in partnership with producers, veterinarians and meat processors implemented the Ontario Voluntary Chronic Wasting Disease Surveillance Project (Project) to increase surveillance in farmed cervids (deer and elk). It is important to test a sufficient number of animals in order to be confident CWD is not in Ontario or if it is, so that timely control measures can be taken. In addition, more and more jurisdictions are requiring participation in a CWD herd certification program and/or 100% testing of all mature cervid mortalities (on-farm deaths and slaughter animals) as a requirement for live animal imports.

Q2 - Is there financial assistance for producers to offset the costs associated with collecting and testing samples for CWD? If so, what costs are eligible under the Project and how quickly will testing fees and sampling allowances be paid?

A2 - Yes. OMAFRA committed ~ $130,000 to the Project from April 2006 to October 2009 and that funding ran out October, 30 2009. OMAFRA committed an additional $100,000 to the Project effective April 22, 2010.

Eligible costs include 100% of CWD laboratory testing fees and sample collection fees incurred at the Animal Health Laboratory (AHL) - University of Guelph. Testing costs will be paid directly by the Project Administrator (see Q3), so there is no need for producers to pay for testing and then be reimbursed. Producers will automatically receive a sampling allowance of $45/sample for on-farm deaths and $35/sample for slaughter animals tested to encourage surveillance and to offset the costs associated with collecting and shipping samples. Sampling allowance payments to producers will be processed by the Project Administrator approximately every 3 months.

Q3 - Who is administering the project?

A3 - The Canadian Sheep Federation (CSF) will be administering the Project on behalf of OMAFRA and will issue sample allowance payments ($35 or $45/sample) to producers. The CSF is also the Regional Administrator of the National CWD Herd Certification Program for the Ontario cervid farming industry. James Byrne and other OMAFRA staff will assist producers in coordinating abattoirs, slaughter dates, sample collection and testing dates whenever possible.

Q4 - When did the Project start and how long will funding be available?

A4 - The Project started April 1, 2006 and continued until Oct 30, 2009 when the allocated funding was spent. The $100,000 funding announced April 22, 2010 will pay for about 900 additional CWD samples and will be available until the funding has been spent. As of January 2018 there is still enough funding to test about an additional 50 samples. Producers wishing to test samples or wanting additional information on the status of the Project should contact James Byrne BEFORE submitting their samples.

Q5 - How will producers know when Project funding is coming to an end?

A5 - The OMAFRA website will provide the most up-to-date status of the Project. To get accurate updates on the status of the Project's funding, producers should contact James Byrne, OMAFRA BEFORE submitting samples. Producers should submit samples for testing as soon as possible in order to improve their chances of accessing Project funding.

Q6 - How many farmed cervids does the Project expect to test? How many samples from farmed cervids have been tested to date?

A6 - Based on available funding the target is to test a total of about 2,230 farmed cervids. As of December 31, 2017 a total of 2,166 samples have been tested. All results have been negative.

Q7 - Is the Ontario CWD Voluntary Surveillance Project voluntary or mandatory?

A7 - The Project is voluntary.

Q8 - Who is eligible to participate in the Project?

A8 - All deer and/or elk farmers who are residents of Ontario are eligible.

Q9 - What species of farmed cervids are covered by the project?

A9 - Elk, red deer, elk/red deer hybrids, fallow deer, white-tailed deer, reindeer and any other farmed or captive cervid species are eligible under the Project.

Q10 - What types of surveillance animals are being tested?

A10 - The Project will include on-farm deaths and condemned slaughter animals. It will also include healthy slaughter animals where carcasses have been "held" pending negative test results. The Project will not test or fund samples where the carcasses from healthy slaughter animals have not been "held" by the OMAFRA meat inspection staff.

Q11 - How old must animals be in order to be eligible for testing and subsequent funding?

A11 - All animals tested must be over 12 months of age which is the age currently used by the National CWD Voluntary Herd Certification Program.

Q12 - What animal identification is required?

A12 - All animal identification must be recorded on the AHL CWD submission form. In instances where the heads are to be submitted to either AHL, a veterinarian or government staff for tissue collection, all identification must remain attached to the head. This is especially important for those herds on the National Voluntary CWD Herd Certification Program.

For healthy slaughter animals where the tissue samples have been collected by a government staff or appointed veterinarian, there is no need to send the actual ear tags with the tissue samples, but the following identification MUST be recorded:

  • OMAFRA meat inspection "held tags" #
  • Canadian Food Inspection Agency's (CFIA) Health of Animals metal ear tag # (i.e. - 34435X7)
  • farm dangle tag(s) # (i.e. - Yellow 013)

For on-farm deaths and condemned slaughter animals the following identification must be recorded:

  • CFIA's Health of Animals metal ear tag # (i.e. - 34435X7)
  • farm dangle tag(s) # (i.e. - Yellow 013).

Q13 - Is there any limit to the number of samples that producers can submit under the Project?

A13 - Given that the Ontario cervid farming sector is shrinking there is currently no limit on the number of samples each producer can test under the Project. This policy will be reviewed annually.

Q14 - Is the Ontario Chronic Wasting Disease Surveillance Project the same as the National Chronic Wasting Disease Voluntary Herd?

A14 - No. The Surveillance Project is different from the Herd Certification Program. The objectives of the Project are to increase CWD Surveillance in Ontario farmed cervids and to encourage participation in the National CWD Voluntary Herd Certification Program. The objective of the Herd Certification Program is to provide owners with the opportunity to have their herds identified as elite with respect to CWD. Membership in the Herd Certification Program provides assurances to potential purchasers of animals that a purchase from a herd with the same level has the same risk of being infected with CWD.

Q15 - Are there any guidelines relating to surveillance that producers should be aware of?

A15 - Yes. For herds enrolled in the National CWD Voluntary Herd Certification Program, it is the producer's responsibility to ensure that they meet the national standards. If producers have any questions about the National CWD Voluntary Herd Certification Program they should contact:

Canadian Sheep Federation
Telephone: 1-866-534-1302

Fulfilling the eligibility requirements of the Ontario CWD Surveillance Project does not necessarily mean that producers will meet the standards of the National CWD Voluntary Herd Certification Program.

Q16 - Do producers have to be enrolled in the National CWD Voluntary Herd Certification Program in order to be eligible to participate in the Ontario CWD Surveillance Project?

A16 - No. Although OMAFRA encourages producers to enroll in the Herd Certification Program, it is not mandatory in order to be eligible for the Ontario CWD Surveillance Project.

Q17 - What provincially inspected abattoirs can a producer use to in order to submit samples from healthy slaughter animals?

A17 - A complete list of provincially licensed abattoirs is available on the OMAFRA website.

Please note an abattoir's participation in the Project is voluntary. To date twenty-seven different abattoirs have participated n the Project. In order to provide broader access to the Project and to get improved surveillance from across Ontario, the number of abattoirs participating in the project will gradually increase. Please contact James Byrne to seek out options.

Q18 - What forms or documents are required and how do I get them?

A18 - In order to be eligible for the Project, all samples must be accompanied by the most current Animal Health Laboratory (AHL) Submission Form for the Ontario Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD) Voluntary Surveillance Project. Using the correct form ensures the producer is not billed. Please destroy/delete all previous versions of the AHL submission form, as the forms have changed. Note there are two different submission forms - one for slaughter animals and another form for on-farm deaths. Copies of the submission forms are available from AHL or James Byrne, OMAFRA.

Q19 - How do I submit samples from slaughter animals?

A19 - the following steps must be taken if submitting samples from slaughter animals:

  • Step 1 - Producer should contact the abattoir to reserve a kill date/time. For producers participating in the National CWD Voluntary Herd Certification Program producers must make slaughter arrangements (CFIA transport permit and/or letter from abattoir) at least 2 weeks prior to slaughter in order to meet the National Program standards. Make sure the abattoir knows that you want to participate in the Ontario CWD Voluntary Surveillance Project when making your reservation and that tested carcasses from healthy slaughter animals MUST be "held" pending a negative test result.
  • Step 2 - For slaughter animals producers should then contact James Byrne at least 2 weeks prior to the slaughter date so the abattoir is aware of the Project's requirements (i.e. - carcasses must be held pending test results, thus they must have adequate cooler capacity for "holding" the carcasses) for an extra few days.
  • Step 3 - Producer should contact the CFIA District office for a cervid movement permit (formerly called transport authorization permit).
  • Step 4 - OMAFRA contact AHL to request/schedule timely testing of slaughter samples to ensure the carcasses are released as soon as possible. AHL currently tests for CWD only 1 day/week. The sooner producers inform OMAFRA staff of their intentions to test slaughter animals, the more likely AHL will be able to schedule testing to minimize the time carcasses must be "held".
  • Step 5 - OMAFRA staff or an appointed veterinarian will arrange for the collection and transportation of the samples tissues for healthy slaughter animals only.
  • Step 6 - Producer complete the most current AHL Submission Form (slaughter animal version) for the Ontario Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD) Voluntary Surveillance Project.
  • Step 7 - AHL will test samples & contact OMAFRA Meat Inspection staff with results. AHL will also send test results to the producer via email, fax or mail.
  • Step 8 - OMAFRA Meat Inspection Staff will arrange for stamping and the "release" of carcasses that test negative for CWD.
  • Step 9 - Producer contact the abattoir to confirm when the carcass/meat can be picked up.

Q20 - Will testing for CWD in healthy slaughter animals delay the release of the carcasses? If so, how long will carcasses be held?

A20 - Yes, carcasses being tested for CWD MUST be "held" pending a negative test result. AHL only tests for CWD one day each week, thus it is important to plan the testing date to closely follow the kill date in order to minimize the length of time the carcasses must be "held". Please account for the time it takes for the samples to be transported/couriered to AHL, as producers CANNOT transport samples from slaughter animals to AHL. Samples must be to AHL by 4 p.m. on day before the test is scheduled. Test results will normally be available late on the day the test is run, but in the event of technical difficulties could be delayed until the following afternoon. OMAFRA Meat Inspection staff must then make arrangements for a designated appointee to visit the abattoir to stamp and release "held" carcasses before the carcasses can be picked up. Carcasses cannot be released to the producer until they are stamped and released by a meat inspector or designated appointee. The actual holding time will depend on which day of the week the animal was killed, sample transit time, testing turn around time and the availability of appointed staff able to release carcasses.

Q21 - How do I submit samples from on-farm deaths?

A21 - Submissions from on-farm deaths can be submitted directly to AHL by the producer, a veterinarian or courier (without OMAFRA involvement) since there is no need to hold carcasses and thus testing turn around time is not as critical as it is for healthy slaughter animals. An AHL Submission Form (on-farm deaths version) for the Ontario Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD) Voluntary Surveillance Project must be submitted in order to be eligible for the Project.

Q22 - What tissue samples are required?

A22 - A section of the brain stem (obex) and retropharyngeal lymph nodes are required from all cervid species. For elk (Cervus canadensis subspecies), red deer (Cervus elaphus subspecies) and fallow deer (Dama dama subspecies), reindeer (Rangifer tarandus tarandus) AHL requires brain stem (obex) as its first choice for analysis and the retropharyngeal lymph nodes (RPLN) will be retained in the event further testing is required. For white tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus subspecies), the laboratory will first analyze the RPLN, and the obex will be retained in the event it is needed for further testing.

Q23 - Who can collect samples?

A23 - Handling and Collection of Samples from Slaughter Animals and On-Farm Deaths

  • Samples from healthy slaughter animals must be collected by an OMAFRA appointed veterinarian or by a government staff appointed under the Food Safety and Quality Act. AHL staff may collect the sample if the head (with identification attached) is delivered to AHL by government staff.
  • Producers can submit heads from condemned slaughter animals or on-farm deaths to a veterinarian or directly to AHL. Ear tags must remain attached. Heads should be fresh on ice packs if possible, otherwise they should be frozen.
  • Tissues (obex and retropharyngeal lymph nodes) from on-farm deaths collected by a veterinarian should be submitted to AHL with the appropriate identification and the AHL - CWD submission form (on-farm deaths version). If the sample is fresh, place it on ice packs, otherwise tissues should be frozen.

Q24 - Who can ship/transport samples?

A24 - Transportation of Samples

  • In order to maintain the "chain of custody", producers cannot transport samples (tissues or heads) from healthy slaughter animals. Samples from healthy slaughter animals must be couriered or transported by government staff to AHL.
  • Producers can transport samples (tissues or heads) from on-farm deaths or condemned slaughter animals to either a veterinarian or directly to AHL. The samples from on-farm deaths and condemned slaughter animals can also be couriered.

Q25 - How should samples be shipped?

A25 - Fresh or frozen specimens on ice packs can be couriered to AHL by Purolator at no charge to shipper if way bill is marked with "Purolator - U of G incoming account # 0966901". Producers wishing to submit heads from on-farm deaths may take the heads directly to AHL or ship them by courier. Detailed AHL shipping instructions are available on the submission forms and on the AHL website.

Remember to include the most current AHL CWD Submission form. There are separate submission forms for slaughter animals and for on-farm deaths.

Q26 - When and where should samples be shipped to be tested for CWD?

A26 - The AHL Guelph specimen reception is open 8:00 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday to Friday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturday, Sunday and statutory holidays. Do not ship perishable samples to arrive at AHL on a holiday or weekend. There is also a sample drop box and refrigerator available out-of-hours in the specimen reception vestibule. All specimens put in the drop box should be packaged with ice packs.

Ship or deliver the samples to:

Animal Health Laboratory - Guelph
Laboratory Services Division, University of Guelph
Building 89, NW Corner Gordon/McGilvray
Guelph, Ontario N1G 2W1

Q27 - Can samples be delivered to AHL Kemptville?

A27 - Yes; however this could delay testing and subsequently the release of carcasses of slaughter animals, since samples must then be forwarded to AHL Guelph for CWD testing. When timing is critical (i.e. - healthy slaughter animals) samples should be sent directly to AHL Guelph. When timing is less critical (i.e. - on-farm deaths) samples can be delivered to AHL Kemptville at:

Animal Health Laboratory - Kemptville
Laboratory Services Division, University of Guelph

From Concession Rd., enter Kemptville College, from Campus Dr, right on McPhail St.
Kemptville, Ontario K0G 1J0

Q28 - How successful has the CWD Surveillance Project been since it was launched in April 2006?

A28 - The following table shows how successful the Project has been in maintaining CWD surveillance during a time when the industry has been shrinking.

Number of CWD Samples Tested/Year:

Year # of Samples
2006 (project launched April 1)

* - There was no funding available for the Project from Oct 31, 2009 to April 21, 2010, which resulted in significantly fewer submissions during this period.

The following summarizes the Project's results as of December 31, 2017:

  • 2,166 samples were tested and were all negative for CWD.
  • 1,464 slaughter animals (68% of total) and 702 on-farm deaths (32% of total) were tested and all confirmed negative.
  • 1,053 elk (49.2% of total tested), 579 white-tailed deer (26.7%), 438 red deer (20.2%), 73 fallow deer (3.4%) and 23 reindeer (1.1%) were tested.
  • 66 Ontario herds participated in the CWD surveillance project. The 66 herds can be categorized as follows:
    • # Herds by species - 25 elk, 15 white-tailed deer, 18 red deer, 4 fallow deer and 4 reindeer);
    • # herds by surveillance type - 32 slaughter, 50 on-farm deaths and 21 both slaughter & on-farm deaths
  • 26 provincially and 1 federally inspected abattoirs participated in the slaughter surveillance component of the project to date.
  • A total of 253 kills were conducted to collect samples from the slaughter animals, an average of 6 cervids processed/kill.
  • A side benefit of the CWD Project was that during the collection of tissues (obex/brain stem & lymph nodes) for CWD testing OMAFRA staff collected ~ 702 blood samples from farmed cervids that were slaughtered and subsequently tested as part of Canadian Food Inspection Agency's brucellosis surveillance.

Q29 - If I am interested in participating in the Project how do I get more information and the necessary documentation?

A29 - Contact the following OMAFRA staff to discuss your participation in the Project.

James Byrne, Beef Cattle Specialist
Telephone: (705) 324-1481 Fax: (705) 324-1638

For more information:
Toll Free: 1-877-424-1300
Author: James Byrne - Beef Cattle Specialist/OMAFRA
Creation Date: 17 May 2011
Last Reviewed: 26 September 2018