Bovine Tuberculosis in Minnesota

US - Until the year 2005, Minnesota had been free of bovine tuberculosis (TB) since 1971. While the impacts TB had on the cattle industry back in the early 1900s were devastating, a scaled down version of these impacts is being seen on the beef industry in Minnesota reports Ryon Walker from the University of Minnesota.
calendar icon 11 September 2009
clock icon 6 minute read

The Minnesota Bovine Tuberculosis Stakeholders Conference held this past summer, said that other livestock industries, such as goats and bison, the recreational sector, and local businesses have been largely impacted.

Brian Buhr, head of University of Minnesota Department of Applied Economics, reported additional cost per head of cattle in herds infected by bovine TB, accounting for business interruption and repopulation, was approximately $130.

In addition, cost per cow per year for uninfected herds was about $35. Brian also indicated that if Minnesota was under a statewide Modified Accredited (MA) status, the total direct costs of TB to Minnesota's beef industry would be an estimated $15.85 million per year.

Under the current Split State Status, the cost is approximately $3.25 million per year, indicating the value of maintaining a split state status on a direct cost basis to be a difference of $12.6 million per year.

Recently, the University of Minnesota Extension Beef Team hosted Minnesota's first Bovine Tuberculosis Stakeholders Conference this past summer in Grand Rapids. The principle behind the two-day conference was to bring together industry, agencies, and stakeholders that have been impacted by bovine TB to discuss Minnesota's current TB plan with the intent to discuss the path towards TB eradication in Minnesota.

The conference consisted of three sessions: economic impacts, TB transmission, and regulatory aspects, where attendees had the opportunity to discuss current TB testing and movement regulations, learn more about TB transmission, and understand the social and economic impacts on the livestock and recreational industries.

Over the last several years, bovine TB has been popping up more and more across the U.S. There are five states that have had a TB status downgrade (California, Michigan, Minnesota, New Mexico, and Texas) and one additional state that could potentially lose its TB free status.

Of the states with TB status downgrades, only Michigan and Minnesota are dealing with TB in wild whitetail deer.

Dr. Mitch Palmer presented findings from a study conducted at the USDA National Animal Disease Center in Ames, Iowa. Bovine TB infection rate in cattle fed TB contaminated feed was 100 percent by 140 days into the study. It was found that it takes only 40 “bugs” of mycobacterium bovis to infect a whitetailed deer, and there are no solid results to indicate the time between infection and shedding of this disease.

Dr. Palmer also reported that TB can survive in different feedstuffs during the winter. In a study looking at survivability of TB on feeds (carrots, corn, hay, potatoes, pelleted feed, sugarbeets, and apples), TB could survive on all feeds at 0 degrees F for 16 weeks, and survive on all feeds except carrots at 46 F for at least 12 weeks.

Matt Ankney with the Michigan Department of Community Health reported that since 1994, a total of 632 deer have been tested positive for TB from a reported 178,578 deer that were tested.

In Minnesota, while the numbers aren't close to what Michigan is experiencing, it has become a priority to eradicate bovine TB in the wild whitetail deer population.

Ed Boggess, deputy director for the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR), indicated that it is impossible to depopulate wildlife, and there is no plan for surveillance nationwide.

Feeding and baiting of wildlife has contributed to Michigan's TB problem, and the contact between wildlife and livestock feed is a big risk factor.

The wildlife action plan panel discussed Minnesota DNR's commitment to eradicating TB in the wildlife population and reported deer reduction efforts have become more aggressive and this disease has not been found in younger deer. The surveillance will continue until no infection in deer is found for five consecutive years.

Joe Martin, assistant commissioner of agriculture and state bovine TB coordinator for the State of Minnesota, expressed that a couple of the biggest areas of concern brought up at “The Future of National TB Program” meeting in Denver was our nation's import regulations and TB reservoirs in wildlife.

The question was raised on whether, on a national level, should TB surveillance be conducted in wildlife, and whether to start determining TB zones based on epidemiology instead of by state lines.

A border state/USDA veterinary panel that consisted of state vets from Iowa, Manitoba, Michigan, Minnesota, Nebraska, North Dakota, South Dakota, and Wisconsin discussed issues concerning comingling of Mexican cattle with both beef and dairy cattle (particularly dairy replacement heifers).

At the TB conference in Minnesota, the question was asked - are states doing enough to track and reduce comingling of Mexican cattle with US breeding cattle? Mr Martin also stated that this is an area of high priority, not only for Minnesota, but for the rest of the states.

At the meeting in Denver, it was brought up about the direction of the national TB program and did Minnesota and neighboring states favor determining TB zones based on the current state status system or should the U.S. move to zoning based on epidemiology.

It was strongly felt by several neighboring state veterinarians that if we move away from the current state status system, industry would not be as quick to push for legislative help.

It creates a level of insurance that industry will take action. If a low prevalence of TB is allowed in states, industry might not take responsibility to push for eradication in the state, thus there would be no consequences for that state.

Executive director of the Minnesota Board of Animal Health, and Minnesota State Veterinarian Bill Hartmann wrapped up the border state vet panel and talked about TB being a national issue.

It was evident at the Denver meeting that the state status system is outdated and there may be a better way. There needs to be pressure on states to eradicate, but maybe there are ways to make sure states do different things to stay disease-free in the non-TB zones.

With the help of USDA, Minnesota was able to get to where we need to be, which is focusing efforts on the MA Zone.

Other hot buttons discussed during the conference included how important animal ID is for determining trace-in and trace-outs, accuracy of the current “chute-side” testing method and the need for developing new test, and the lack of federal dollars for testing and depopulating herds positive with TB.

During the livestock action plan panel, it was shared that the livestock industry needs to demand and implement biosecurity and better herd management plans. These practices can be presented to producers by educators, but until livestock producers take action themselves and implement biosecurity practices, disease transmission will still be a concern.

The Minnesota Bovine TB Stakeholders Conference brought in an array of expertise on topics that outlined the Economic Impact bovine TB has had in Minnesota, understanding TB Transmission in livestock and wild cervidae, and current Regulatory Aspects.

During the conference were a number of panels that consisted of livestock producers and veterinarians, a wildlife and livestock action plan panel, and a border state/USDA veterinary panel.

The conference also included a tour of the University of Minnesota's research facility in Grand Rapids where results were presented from research projects addressing management practices to reduce TB transmission through deer/cattle interactions, funded by the University of Minnesota Rapid Agricultural Response Fund.


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