Bovine TB objective: Don't be like Michigan
ST. PAUL - If Minnesota does not aggressively combat bovine tuberculosis, some worry it could end up like Michigan. That state several years ago tried to tackle the disease that appears in deer and cattle by building fences to separate animals, Sen.
ST. PAUL - If Minnesota does not aggressively combat bovine tuberculosis, some worry it could end up like Michigan.
That state several years ago tried to tackle the disease that appears in deer and cattle by building fences to separate animals, Sen. Rod Skoe said, but it did not kill herds or shoot deer that may carry the disease. As a result, Michigan still has bovine TB problems.
"We know what not to do - that," said Skoe, a Clearbrook Democrat who wants Minnesota to spend more than $6 million to fight bovine TB.
The Minnesota Legislature is just one front in what state officials say is an aggressive fight against the respiratory disease found in cattle and deer. Elsewhere, experts are shooting deer in northwestern Minnesota, there are plans to study bovine TB at a Grand Rapids research station, farmers must conduct more animal testing and state officials are seeking to have most of the state declared free of bovine TB.
"This is a tough situation for everybody to deal with, but I think everyone in the state recognizes the significance of this disease, that is does require an aggressive action," said Joe Martin, Minnesota's bovine TB coordinator.
Bovine TB has been found in 11 northwestern Minnesota cattle herds since 2005. It also has been found in 17 deer. The disease is transmitted by contact between the two species.
The federal Agriculture Department recently downgraded Minnesota's bovine TB status. The announcement was expected, but it resulted in additional testing requirements for cattle farmers across the state, not just in areas where the disease has been found.
State officials hope their efforts will lead federal officials this fall to give Minnesota "split-state status," designating all but an area of northwestern Minnesota as free of bovine TB. That would lift testing requirements and cattle shipping restrictions elsewhere in the state, though it could be more than four years before bovine TB is fully eradicated from the state.
To reduce the possibility of future bovine TB outbreaks, state and federal officials are shooting deer in an area near Roseau.
"We're continuing to try to remove TB-positive deer in that area and keep deer population density at a low level," said Ed Boggess of the Department of Natural Resources.
Martin said that as of Thursday, 810 deer had been shot this year. All of those deer were tested for bovine TB; officials believe at least four animals had the disease, making additional shooting likely.
"What's most concerning is that we did find suspects," Martin said of deer believed to have bovine TB.
State officials say it is not known what impact the bovine TB issue is having on Minnesota's cattle industry, or on its overall economy, but some lawmakers worry about the effects in northwestern Minnesota.
"It's not going to be pretty to the economy," said Rep. Dave Olin, DFL-Thief River Falls.
Olin said business owners in his district fear that culling the deer herd will lead to a decline in deer hunting in that area.
"If we do nothing and this bovine TB goes throughout the deer herd, nobody's going to go up there and hunt deer in the future," Skoe said.
Rep. Brita Sailer, DFL-Park Rapids, whose legislative district includes areas where bovine TB is a concern, said the recent federal agriculture decision is a setback, but necessary. She also supported the effort to kill deer near the zone where bovine TB cases have been found.
"If we fail to take preventative measures now, we could jeopardize both Minnesota's livestock industry and our state's deer herd," Sailer said.