Full-Herd Tuberculosis
Testing & Certification in Texas


Update from the Texas Animal Health Commission - May 13, 2004

Progress of the Texas Surveillance TB Testing Program

Herds Tested
Total Head
Herds Remaining
Infected herds
Dairy herds
Beef herds

The mandatory testing of dairy herds seems to be on track, but we have along way to go to get the required number of purebred beef or seed stock herds tested. The deadline for completion of this project is still August 31, 2004. The fee basis money will run out at that time, unless an extension of the cooperative agreement between the US Depatment of Agriculture and the Texas Animal Health Commission (TAHC) can be negotiated

The testing of these herds was accepted by the USDA as an alternative to their imposition of federal export rules, which required the testing of all sexually intact animals prior leaving the state, including feeder heifers. Their rules also require that all feeder steers leaving the state would have to be ear tagged. Texas exports approximately 1.5 million feeder animals per year, and those stringent rules, if implemented, would create a tremendous economic and logistical burden on the cattle industry. Your help is needed to get additional beef herds tested in your community.

May 13, 2004 - News Release from the Texas Animal Health Commission

Cattle Tuberculosis (TB) Testing Lags;
Could Impact Reinstatement of Texas' TB-Free Status

"Dairy and purebred beef cattle owners must complete the task that we agreed to accomplish by stepping forward to have their herds tested for cattle tuberculosis (TB), if Texas is to regain the Class "Free" status for TB eradication," warns Dr. Bob Hillman, Texas's State Veterinarian. As of early May, 349 Texas dairys and 115 purebred beef herds have been tested for the bacterial disease. While the dairy industry is making significant progress, it still falls short of the testing necessary to assure the US Deptartment of Agriculture and other states that Texas has conducted adequate disease surveillance to find any remaining infected herds. The TB Plan for Texas, developed in 2002 by a joint industry and regulatory working group, calls for testing the state's 850+ dairy herds and at least 2,500 of it's beef seed-stock herds by the end of August 2004. The plan was submitted to the USDA, along with a commitment to comply with the program.

"The U S Department of Agriculture (USDA) could deny a bid for Texas to regain its TB-Free status, citing lack of disease surveillance, if we don't meet our testing objective," explains Dr. Bob Hillman, who heads the TAHC, the state's livestock and poultry regulatory agency. "The USDA is funding 'fee-basis' payments to private, certified veterinarians who conduct herd testing, eliminating out-of-pocket expense for the cattle owner. Unless we are granted an extension, this federal money will not be available after the end of August, so it's crucial that producers take action to schedule a herd test now."

A Brief History of the TB-Free Status
Since 1983, cattle TB has been detected in 15 Texas dairies and in 6 purebred beef herds. In 2000, Texas attained the TB-Free status under the National Tuberculosis Eradication Program, but lost that status in 2002 after two infected herds were detected in the state. Dairy and purebred beef cattle are no more susceptible to TB than commercial cattle, but they are usually maitained in a herd much longer due to their value for milking and breeding. Once exposed to cattle TB bacteria, it may be several years before dairy cows or purebred cattle are tested, relocated, or culled and sent to slaughter, where carcasses are examined and disease is detected.

Basics of Herd Testing
"A full-herd test must include all cattle 12 months of age or older (including any dry cows in dairies). Testing of purchased replacement animals is optional, but the cost is covered by the program and should be considered," said Dr. Hillman. "To conduct a test, the certified or regulatory veterinarian will inject cattle with a small amount of tuberculin in the skin of the caudal fold, an area on the underside of the tail. Sevety-two hours later the veterinarian will visually and manually examine the injection site for a reaction, such as thickening of the skin. A response is an indication the animal may have been exposed to TB bacteria."

"Around 3-4% of dairy cattle and about 2% of beef animals will respond positively to the caudal-fold skin test. Until recently, a second 72-hour test was needed to differentiate between an animal's expsure to cattle TB bacteria or to avian TB, which is not a danger to herd health. The recent approval of the Gamma Interferon Test has greatly simplified this follow-up testing. Now state or federal regulatory personnel can collect blood samples from 'caudal-fold responder' cattle so that Gamma Interferon tests can be run at the State-Federal Laboratory in Austin. Of more than 3,800 Gamma tests run already during the course of this testing program, only about 0.34 percent cent—or 132—have been in the suspect or reactor range."

"Animals also found positive on the Gamma test will be purchased by the USDA for slaughter and necropsy. Internal organs will be examined for lesions compatible with TB infection and tissue samples will be submitted for confirmation to the National Veterinary Services Laboratory in Aimes, Iowa," said Dr. Hillman. He noted that the USDA's indemnity is based on the fair market value of the animal. For adult dairy cattle, agricultural economists have determined the standard appraisal to be $1,425. Beef animals would be appraised individually by a certified appraiser. Producers, however, may negotiate for a higher payment by providing registration papers for registered cattle and/or production records for dairy cattle. The USDA will also pay for hauling and disposal or burial of the carcass.

If infection in the herd is conformed, the owner has two options. The entire herd can be quarantined and undergo a series of retests, until all infected animals have been removed, and subsequent repeated testings assure that infection has been eliminated. Or, the USDA will negotiate a purchase price for the entire herd and depopulate the animals, allowing the owner to return to normal business practices more quickly.

"Clearly, cattle TB infection must be addressed in Texasand in other states where infected herds have been detected. This currently includes California, New Mexico, Arizona, Kansas, and Michigan. In Texas, we need the support of dairy and beef producers to find infection; and, if additional infected herds are present, to prevent further spread of the desease; and regain our ability to move breeding cattle across state lines without a TB test, " Dr. Hillman noted. "Allowing cattle TB to gain a 'hoof-hold' would be extremely costly, in terms of credibility with consumers, and in our ability to trade freely with interstate and international trading partners."

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ's)
about Full-Herd TB Testing

1. How much will this cost me?
The current "fee-based" funding from the USDA is in effect until August 31, 2004. Herd-testing costs incurred before that deadline will be eligible for this funding which allows for "no expense to the cattle owner."
The biggest cost will be your time and energy involved in getting all animals corraled for the initial injection and then again 72 hours later for the follow-up examination.

2. Can my regular veterinarian perform these tests?
Veterinarians and clinics specializing in "large animal" care and treatment will have a staff certified to perform TB testing procedures. If you are raising cattle, you should already have a good vet's name and phone number written downand inyour truck. If you don't, it time you found one!

3. Do I have to take all of my cows to the vet's office?
If you have a small herd (5-7 cows) and a large enough trailer, that might be the best approach. However, with larger numbers of cattle, your veterinarian will most likely schedule a ranch visit and can perform the testing procedures there provided you have adequate facilites to "hold" each animal while the test is done. Check with you vet about his/her preferences and what's needed to get the job accomplished.

4. If I get these tests done once, will my herd be "TB-Free Certified" from then on?
To maintain your Certified TB-Free Herd status, you will have to repeat the testing each year. However, if you get the initial testing done before August 31, 2004, you can take advantage of the current "fee basis" program and it won't cost you anything for this year. This full-herd certification will also allow you to avoid the hassle of getting these tests performed on individual animals before consigning them to a sale or when selling/transporting an animal to an out-of-state buyer.



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