Improving Beef Cattle Health Surveillance in Western Canada

Project Title

The Western Canadian Animal Health Network (WeCAHN) Beef Network: Connecting Farmers, Specialists and Information Systems to Improve Cattle Health in Western Canada


Yanyun Huang (Prairie Diagnostic Services)

Sean McGrath (Round Rock Ranching) John Berezowski (University of Berne) Wendy Wilkins (Saskatchewan Ministry of Agriculture) Glen Duizer (Manitoba Ministry of Agriculture) Delores Peters (Alberta Ministry of Agriculture and Food) Anatoliy Trokhymchuk (Prairie Diagnostic Services)

Status Project Code
In progress. Results expected in March, 2024 SURV.01.20


Disease surveillance plays an important role in early detection, both in terms of changes in diseases we’re aware of, as well as detecting new diseases. Early detection is key to prompt and effective responses that minimize risk to cattle, producers, the industry and the economy.

The Western Canadian Animal Health Network (WeCAHN) is modelled on existing networks in Quebec and Ontario. WeCAHN is a collaborative initiative where veterinarians and other experts can share and discuss animal disease data, emerging animal health events, disease treatment and management strategies, and other current surveillance issues.


  • Build a robust, sustainable western Canadian beef health surveillance network, using the knowledge and expertise of veterinarians, epidemiologists, producers, and animal health laboratories to collect, synthesize and share animal health information, reducing the impact of beef animal disease,
  • Improve the usefulness of veterinary diagnostic laboratory data for the beef industry,
  • Deliver timely, targeted information regarding trends in frequency of beef diseases and best treatment practices to beef producers and veterinarians, to improve the quality of animal health,
  • Create a rapid alert system within an early warning system for beef safety in western Canada, detecting and assessing early surveillance and intelligence signals, and rapidly communicating the risks, with appropriate mitigation strategies, to beef veterinarians and producers, reducing losses and improving competitiveness, and
  • Assess the cost-effectiveness of the network and build a sustainable plan for continuing the WeCAHN beef network’s operations into the future.

What they will do

The WeCAHN beef network will involve epidemiologists, representatives from the provincial veterinary laboratories in BC, Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba, the Saskatoon and Calgary vet schools, a practicing beef veterinarian from each province, the Canadian Integrated Program for Antimicrobial Resistance Surveillance and the Canadian Cow Calf Surveillance Network. It will expand to include Verified Beef Production Plus auditors and producers. They will use data from practices and labs to get a sense of changing trends in frequency of disease in different regions with the intent of recognizing and controlling significant issues before they get out of hand. Data will be summarized and distributed, along with recommended Best Management Practices when concerns are identified. Over time, the Network intends to grow and include feedlot data.

In Year 1 WeCAHN will focus on assessing the information necessary to develop an early warning system, beginning to collect data and developing its communication networks. In Year 2 they will begin to analyze patterns in the data to identify unusual disease trends and develop an early warning system. In Year 3 they will estimate the cost-benefit of the system and develop a network sustainability plan.


The entire world now understands how early detection, information sharing, and rapid response are important to effectively containing human disease outbreaks. The same principles apply to livestock.