State seeks TB-free status

PIPESTONE -- Cattle producers from across southwest Minnesota are being asked to help the state regain its tuberculosis-free status. On Monday, officials from the state Board of Animal Health (BAH), U.S. Department of Agriculture and a local vete...

PIPESTONE -- Cattle producers from across southwest Minnesota are being asked to help the state regain its tuberculosis-free status.

On Monday, officials from the state Board of Animal Health (BAH), U.S. Department of Agriculture and a local veterinarian were on hand in Pipestone to explain the process of a statewide testing campaign to start this fall.

Minnesota lost its 1971-issued TB-free status on July 12, 2005, after a beef herd in Roseau County tested positive for bovine TB infection. Since then, extensive testing was conducted, and four other herds in northwest Minnesota were found to be infected. Two of those herds shared fence line with the first discovered TB-infected herd, while the other two herds included purchased animals from the Roseau County farm. In all, four of the herds were located in Roseau County and one herd in Beltrami County.

Malissa Fritz, BAH communications director, said all of the animals in the first TB-detected herd have been disposed of, the facilities cleaned and disinfected, and the farm has since been released from quarantine. However, because TB is a slow-progressing, highly contagious disease, BAH is required to conduct extensive, statewide testing within the next two years and prove the disease is no longer present.

Once specific requirements are met, Fritz said the state can apply for TB-free status from its present, downgraded, Modified Accredited Advanced status. The change in status won't happen until January 2008 at the earliest -- two years to the month after the last TB-infected herd was depopulated.


Exhaustive search

Minnesota is home to an estimated 21,300 cattle herds, consisting of 460,000 dairy cattle and 395,000 beef cattle. Since the TB discoveries in Roseau and Beltrami counties, more than 80,000 TB tests were conducted in Minnesota -- including both farm herds and show animals. Of those, 3,600 animals were disposed of, and 115 farms were quarantined as testing was conducted.

The Pipestone Livestock Auction Market, the site of Monday's meeting, is responsible for much of the testing done to date in southwest Minnesota. The facility markets cattle within an approximate 10-county area. Already, 15,000 head of cattle have been tested for TB in Pipestone County.

According to retired Worthington veterinarian Kern Schwartz, who is helping to administer TB tests in southwest Minnesota, testing will need to be conducted on one-fourth of the 221 cattle herds located in the 14 counties he oversees. Portions of Nobles County's 49 cattle herds and Pipestone County's 29 herds will need to be tested.

"We've got to prove ourselves the state is TB-free, and this is how we're going to do it," Schwartz said.

The next step for BAH is to conduct testing on breeding herds in the state, specifically herds that import dairy or beef breeding stock from states south and west of Iowa, to include Arizona, California, Colorado, Kansas, Nebraska, New Mexico, Nevada, Oklahoma, Texas and Utah. These states were identified because of similarities in the type of TB found in Minnesota and the types discovered in those areas of the country.

The TB test

There are two different forms of testing that can be done to identify bovine TB.


The first is a caudal fold test, in which animals receive an injection in the tail. When the animals are checked 72 hours later, those who have developed a lump in the tail are identified as suspect for TB. Suspected animals are sent through a second test, the comparative cervical test, which includes two injection sites in the shoulder area -- one to test for the avian strain and the second to test for the bovine strain of TB. Results of those tests are also read within 72 hours.

"If you see a reaction from here, more than likely this animal has TB," Fritz said.

At that point, the animal is necropsied, and health officials search for lesions inside the animal that positively indicate the presence of tuberculosis.

Sherry Shaw, area epidemiology officer for the USDA, said testing will be conducted on animals 12 months of age and older, as well as on cattle younger than 12 months of age that were not born on the farm being tested. The cost of the testing will be covered by the USDA, which has spent $3.5 million on TB testing since the first herd was detected more than a year ago.

Additional costs, including producer time and use of equipment, hiring additional labor for the testing and paying the service call beyond the initial two visits, is the responsibility of the producer. However, Fritz said they are working to get approval so that up to half of the out-of-pocket costs to producers can be considered a tax deduction.

Still, the cost for producers now is worth it in the long-term, said Fritz. Until the state regains its TB-free status, all producers shipping cattle across the state lines are charged $10 per head. Some states have expressed concern with Minnesota cattle being shipped in, and Illinois has placed a ban on Minnesota cattle until the state returns to TB-free status.

Those costs to producers could far outweigh the costs for the testing.

"This is a business," Fritz said. "We need to make sure this industry stays intact. We just need to get back to TB-free status so our cattle can move freely again."


The deer factor

Two deer were found to be infected with TB in 2005, both located in close proximity to the TB-infected cattle herds in northern Minnesota. Testing of hunter-harvested, free-ranging deer will continue during the 2006 hunting season, Fritz said.

"In northwest Minnesota, (the DNR) hope to collect 1,000 samples, with an additional 2,000 deer sampled in northern Minnesota and 1,000 in southern Minnesota," she said.

In addition to TB, the deer will be tested for Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD).

On the Net:

Julie Buntjer became editor of The Globe in July 2021, after working as a beat reporter at the Worthington newspaper since December 2003. She has a bachelor's degree in agriculture journalism from South Dakota State University.
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