Area rancher asks state for bovine TB help

ST. PAUL -- Snow is melting around Mark Brobst's northwestern Minnesota ranch, signaling return of deer and, possibly, return of bovine tuberculosis.

ST. PAUL -- Snow is melting around Mark Brobst's northwestern Minnesota ranch, signaling return of deer and, possibly, return of bovine tuberculosis.

The state needs to take action right away to ensure he does not suffer a devastating loss for a second straight year, he told senators Thursday. He lost up to $63,000 last year as one of five cattle producers in his area whose herds were slaughtered after one cow in each was found to have tuberculosis.

The Grygla-area rancher pleaded with members of the Senate Environment, Agriculture and Economic Development Budget Division to take action in the next two weeks to prevent deer from infecting more cows.

"The cattle and the deer are going to intermix in the summer time," he said.

Committee Chairman Dallas Sams, DFL-Staples, said senators will look into the issue in coming days, but gave Brobst no promises.


Brobst traveled to St. Paul supporting proposals by Sen. Rod Skoe, DFL-Clearbrook, to help prevent TB transmission between deer and cattle.

Skoe seeks an unspecified appropriation to allow the Department of Natural Resources to kill more deer in the extreme northwest Minnesota area that has been affected by bovine TB. He also wants more money for the state to conduct TB tests on deer and cattle.

The senator, a farmer, said he is concerned TB will spread to other cattle herds and devastate the state's beef industry. Deer can travel long distances and spread TB out of the immediate area already affected, Skoe said.

Two deer have been found with TB, as well as one head in each of the five cattle herds. Skoe said that it is better to thin the deer population than to risk more cattle herd infections.

"To be on the safe side, we should put on an effort to depopulate the deer in that area," added Sen. Steve Dille, R-Dassel, a veterinarian.

In an interview, Brobst said that he lost $62,000 to $63,000 when government authorities ordered that his 1,011-head herd be slaughtered early this year. He plans to buy more cattle, although they cannot be around his ranch buildings until the buildings have been disinfected - and that cannot happen until the weather warms.

Brobst told senators that TB was found in his herd six months after he bought the ranch, which he earlier had managed.

Skoe said TB causes economic problems well beyond the five cattle producers who lost their herds. Other Minnesotans selling cattle face restrictions selling in other states. He warned committee members that without prompt action the state could become another Michigan, which lost much of its cattle industry to TB.


Even a southern Minnesota senator who lives far from the area where TB was found said it is a serious problem.

"This is a direct threat to the agriculture industry in Minnesota," Sen. Julie Rosen, R-Fairmont, said.

Skoe and the DNR disagree on the problem.

The DNR's Mike Doncarlos said the state already is adequately checking deer for TB, and he is confident Minnesota's problem is nowhere near as bad as in Michigan. Doncarlos said Michigan herds probably had TB for decades before it became a big problem.

"We will continue shooting deer this spring and right on through summer," Doncarlos said.

However, he added, an expanded deer hunt beyond what the DNR is conducting is not needed.

When the DNR or others shoot deer in northwestern Minnesota, the animals are tested for TB.

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