Battle For Control

March 22, 2009 07:00 PM

The fight is still on. The threat of bovine tuberculosis (TB) and brucellosis in cattle herds remains in some areas of the country. After years of work to eradicate the diseases, many states still need to make continual efforts to keep them under control.

In Montana, Steve Merritt, information officer with the Montana Department of Livestock, says the department is waiting to hear from the state legislature on its request for economic assistance in efforts to start widespread testing as part of its final brucellosis action plan. Currently Montana is the only state in the U.S. without Class Free status, after disclosure of two brucellosis-affected herds within a one-year period. Montana producers face some animal movement restrictions, which can be found at the department Web site,

What is your status? To identify bovine TB areas, the USDA Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service developed a five-level status guide. Minnesota, Michigan, New Mexico and California are all under various levels of restrictions. Federal zones are: accredited free (AF), modified accredited advanced (MAA), modified accredited (MA), accreditation preparatory and nonaccredited.

Minnesota's state veterinarian, Bill Hartmann, says his state was granted split-state status—the majority of the state is MAA and a small area—Roseau, Lake of the Woods, Beltrami and Marshall Counties—is MA.

State by state. In 2008, the Minnesota legislature authorized a cattle buyout program for producers in the management zone to voluntarily depopulate cattle herds. Minnesota cattlemen removed 46 of 68 cattle herds in the area as of January 2009, a total of 6,200 head.

"For the remaining [MAA] herds in the TB management zone, we constructed deer-exclusionary fencing around winter feeding areas and stored feed,” Hartmann says.

Other states also are working to control TB. California was downgraded to MAA in August when state inspections revealed three dairy herds with TB in Fresno County.

New Mexico is seeking split-state status after a single TB cow was found in a feedlot in the eastern part of the state in September. Myles Culbertson, executive director of the New Mexico Livestock Board, says the state is working with USDA to establish a zone for the affected areas—the counties of Curry and Roosevelt—with hopes of releasing producers in the rest of the state from movement restrictions.

Culbertson adds that producers can prevent TB in their herd with simple management practices. "For dairies, the most obvious is having a closed herd,” he says. "Dairy operators send calves to facilities to be raised and bring back heifers to the milk parlor. Careful decisions are needed if animals are intermingled with others at those facilities.” BT

To contact Sara Brown, e-mail

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