County Board approves bovine TB resolution

Beltrami County joined Tuesday a growing group of northwest Minnesota counties demanding urgent action to protect cattle herds from bovine tuberculosis.

Beltrami County joined Tuesday a growing group of northwest Minnesota counties demanding urgent action to protect cattle herds from bovine tuberculosis.

The Beltrami County Board approved a resolution which first won approval by the Roseau County Board, but with modifications to remove finger-pointing blame and to be less specific about what state and federal agencies respond -- just that they do.

"I urge you to adopt this resolution," Larry Zea, a Blackduck area cattle rancher, told county commissioners Tuesday night. "I am a deer hunter ... I know deer hunting means a lot of income to our area, but not near enough to what cattle b rings."

The resolution, in an effort to curb bovine TB which has been discovered in 11 Beltrami and Roseau County herds, urges a "significant reduction of free-ranging white-tail deer and elk in the core area." Last month, a fourth Beltrami County herd was discovered with bovine TB, in the Skime area of northwestern Beltrami County.

Saving the cattle is more important that providing a deer hunting opportunity in that area, Zea, an area representative for the Minnesota Beef Council, said. "Last Thursday, at the Bagley sale barn, 4,764 head of cattle went through there. "That's about $2.5 million in one day in this one industry."


County Board Chairman Quentin Fairbanks urged action on the measure, saying he had attended a meeting on the matter in Roseau County. Also, state officials met with farmers and ranchers last week in both Blackduck and Bagley.

The discovery of the latest herd by the Minnesota Board of Animal Health resulted in downgrading Minnesota's TB status to Modified Accredited, the third of five categories. It means state producers will have to adhere to stricter federal and state testing requirements when shipping cattle or bison. A Modified Accredited status may also require surveillance testing of dairy herds that sell milk.

Intensive testing of cattle for bovine TB has been a part of ranching for nearly two years in the affected areas, said Zea, who had his own herd tested at state expense last year. But the new category will mean more whole-herd testing and mandatory testing within 60 days of individual cattle scheduled to be moved, he said.

"This will have a huge economic impact on all beef producers," Zea said.

He also questioned the cause of the disease, which most officials believe are from free-ranging deer and elk from Canada and the reason why deer are being culled. "I've heard that it comes from breeder cattle from Texas, as one of the strains of TB is from Texas and Mexico. We imported some animals from Texas, and the deer and elk move about and spread it."

But culling the deer is still necessary to prevent the spread of bovine TB, said Diane Thurlow, a Kelliher area rancher.

"When there is a bovine TB-positive test, the whole herd is eliminated," Thurlow said. "If it's in deer, then the whole herd of deer will also need to be eliminated in that area. And, deer hunters don't want deer with TB, either.

"It's everybody's problem," Thurlow added.


Exposure to bovine tuberculosis through the milk or meat supply is extremely unlikely, according to the Board of Animal Health. Meat inspectors check all cattle entering the marketplace for signs of the disease before and after slaughter. Any animal showing the signs is withheld from the food supply. In addition, adequate cooking destroys the bacteria. Further, the milk pasteurization process at processing plants destroys any potential bacteria.

The resolution, as approved by the Beltrami County Board, asks that there be:

E A significant reduction of free-ranging white-tail deer and elk in the core area.

E Continued testing of white-tail deer and elk in the bovine TB-managed zones.

E A single point of contact and decision making in the DNR to efficiently facilitate communication, public relations and solutions.

E Engage the appropriate state and federal agencies with the management of the transmission and spread of the infectious disease.

E Implement an accelerated timeline for the elimination of bovine TB in both livestock and white-tail deer populations.

The resolution, originally approved by the Roseau County Board, was also approved Tuesday by the Polk County Board. Beltrami commissioners, however, called for the appropriate state and federal agencies to manage the disease, rather than "the Department of Public Health and the Department of Homeland Security and Emergency Management," as the original read.


Beltrami County commissioners also deleted a whereas clause which accused the DNR of bad communications and public relations, efforts that have been "deficient at best and unacceptable at worst."

"It's not language that we want in there," said Commissioner Ron Otterstad, who urged the changes in the Roseau resolution. "The DNR has been doing a lot of things up there for two years. In principle we want the same result, but not with the pot shot."

Otterstad said the state is working on a way to split the state, with the more stricter bovine TB category for the area around the current troubled herds and the rest of the state having a less restrictive classification. "Where they draw the line could greatly affect Beltrami County producers, especially if it's at U.S. Highway 2 and not around the specific area, with a buffer."

But Zea said a decision on that is at least a year away as it also involves the U.S. Department of Agriculture and lots of red tape over how such a zone would be enforced.

"We want something that gets the job done, but not unduly burdensome to our cattle producers," said Commissioner Joe Vene.

The resolution notes that a 2002 study shows cow/calf business contributes $40 million to the local economy in a nine-county northern Minnesota area, and that since bovine TB was first discovered in 2005, "limited progress has been made to successfully implement a strategy to effectively deal with the problem," especially in reducing the deer population in the core bovine TB area.

According to the 2002 U.S. Census of Agriculture, the latest available, there were 321 beef cow farms in Beltrami County with 11,458 beef cows. There were 25 farms with milk cows, with 1,755 total milk cows.

There were a total of 387 farms with a cattle and cow inventory of 28,123 animals. And there were 16,715 cattle and calves sold in Beltrami County that year.

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