Then to now — Dennis Laycraft of the Canadian Cattle Association reflects on 20 year anniversary of BSE

(Kara Oosterhuis/RealAgriculture)

This weekend marks the 20 year anniversary of Bovine spongiform encephalopathy, or more commonly known as BSE, being found in an Alberta cow, leading to the historic crash in the Canadian cattle industry.

Dennis Laycraft, executive vice president of the Canadian Cattle Association, was on the front lines, and recalls the process that began with an initial confidential phone call on May 18th, 2003.

From there, to the market paralysis and the media, Canadians rallying behind the industry, lessons learned from the investigation, and so much more, Laycraft takes us through those days, and the 20 years that followed. This is a conversation you won’t want to miss.

(Quick summary follows video)


  • Preparation for a potential BSE outbreak
    • Highly probably case of BSE
    • Ruminant feed ban, national ID system, etc
    • Consumption of beef in Europe drops 90 per cent after discovery
    • Investigation into the incident
  • Market paralysis and the media
    • Uncharted discussions on how to help producers survive
    • Most significant agricultural press conference of a generation
    • The risk of losing consumer confidence in other markets
    • Canadian beef safety measures
  • Canadians rallying behind the industry
    • A shortage of Canadian beef in Canada
    • Canadians rallied behind the industry
    • The first 60 days of the investigation
    • Behind-the-scenes efforts to get the border re-established
  • Transparency between veterinarians and government
    • Transparency between Canada and the U.S.
    • The relentless effort to reopen the border
    • Partial opening and reopening of the facility
    • Expansion of the Canadian packing industry
  • The Great Recession of 2008
    • The perfect storm scenario that led to the great recession
    • The next 10 years
    • Survival forces the greatest level of efficiency in an industry
    • The great recession reshaped the industry
  • How did the border opening affect cattle prices?
    • Border opening for beef will not improve the market
    • Canadian support and demand
    • Risk of BSE in the UK
  • How did BSE code change?
    • The evolution of BSE
    • The re-writing of the BSE code
    • The importance of current information for cattle producers

Wake up with RealAgriculture

Subscribe to our daily newsletters to keep you up-to-date with our latest coverage every morning.

Wake up with RealAgriculture