Commentary: Minnesota comes to grips with TB cattle infestation
For months, the state's cattle and dairy industries had waited to see the practical consequences of the discovery of bovine tuberculosis in five northwestern Minnesota cattle herds. The other shoe finally dropped at the end of January when the U....
For months, the state's cattle and dairy industries had waited to see the practical consequences of the discovery of bovine tuberculosis in five northwestern Minnesota cattle herds. The other shoe finally dropped at the end of January when the U.S. Department of Agriculture removed Minnesota from the list of accredited-free states.
Losing our "TB-free" status was expected, but it was unpleasant all the same. Minnesota farmers and ranchers must now meet a series of federal and state testing requirements when shipping cattle to another state. Specifically, USDA is requiring that all breeding cattle be tested for TB within 60 days of shipment. The cost for this test can vary, but I am told it typically runs about $10 per head.
In addition, other states have established their own requirements. These vary from state to state, so the best advice I can give is for farmers to check directly with their veterinarian to figure out the requirements for the state to which they're sending their cattle. Cattle do not have to be tested if they are moving entirely within Minnesota.
Regaining our TB-free status will take at least two years, and the clock started running in January when the Minnesota Board of Animal Health and its partners with USDA's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service depopulated the fifth and most recently discovered TB herd. That means if things go well, the testing requirements will be lifted in January 2008.
For its part, BAH continues its investigation into the TB outbreak. Although BAH is a separate organization from the Minnesota Department of Agriculture, our department is working with the board to provide them support and assistance.
Right now, efforts are concentrating on testing all cattle within a 10-mile radius of the five TB herds, and conducting voluntary testing of cattle within a 15-mile radius. The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources is conducting a parallel investigation into the discovery of TB in wild deer in northwestern Minnesota.
Understandably, producers in northwestern Minnesota and around the state have many questions about this outbreak of TB and its implications for their industry. We are working with the BAH to set up a number of ongoing communications channels, including regular conference calls with farm groups and direct mailings to producers in the immediate area around the TB herds.
BAH has information on its Web site at www.bah.state.mn.us , and it has established a toll-free hotline at 1-877-MNTBFREE (668-2373). Producers around the state can call this hotline for more information.
This TB outbreak is unfortunate, but I am confident that our farmers, veterinarians and animal health officials will quickly and effectively deal with this challenge. I am also confident that Minnesota's $2 billion cattle industry will continue to be a stable and important part of our farm economy well into the future.
Gene Hugoson is commissioner of the Minnesota Department of Agriculture.