Positive Minnesota tests confirm TB fears

Tests conducted in Minnesota confirmed the fears of wildlife management officials and those in the beef cattle industry that Tuberculosis is most likely in that state to stay.

Tests conducted in Minnesota confirmed the fears of wildlife management officials and those in the beef cattle industry that Tuberculosis is most likely in that state to stay.

In response, the North Dakota Board of Animal Health voted Feb. 22 for new regulations to be implemented regarding animals crossing the border.

On Feb. 19, the Minnesota Board of Animal Health announced a Beltrami County cattle herd tested positive for bovine TB.

It was the fourth positive test since October of 2007, which led to the new regulations by the North Dakota board. The new North Dakota steps include mandatory tests for all cattle, bison, goats, farmed elk and llamas coming into the state.

"We consider it of utmost importance to do everything we can to limit the impact of bovine TB on the state's cattle industry as a whole," Minnesota Board of Animal Health Executive Director and State Veterinarian Dr. Bill Hartmann was quoted as saying in a press release. "While the downgrade in our status is a setback, we are committed to eliminating this disease from the state."


Minnesota is pursuing split state status, which enables producers in TB free areas of the state to be exempt from the required testing. One area of the state would be downgraded to modified accredited status and the rest of the state would remain at modified accredited advanced status.

The pursuit of split state status could take over a year to achieve.

Minnesota had been TB free for nearly 30 years when in 2005, its first animal tested positive in Roseau County. Since then, there has been regular testing to measure the spread of the disease.

The test, which costs $10 per animal to administer, is conducted by exposing the animal to a noninfectious state of the virus. Veterinarians then return a few days later to look for skin discoloration; if a discoloration is present the test is positive.

"State Veterinarian Susan Keller provides recommendations to the board and then they vote," North Dakota Game and Fish big game biologist Bill Jensen said of the steps taken here. "I think it's prudent on her and the board's part to be a little proactive on this."

Among the new requirements implemented is one level of test the North Dakota Board of Animal Health requires that goes above and beyond what the Department of Agriculture suggested.

"We have one requirement that would be considered more stringent," Keller said. "And that is that feeder cattle must come from a whole herd test."

Keller added it is important that every animal in that herd be tested to enable full confidence in the results.


Jensen said the continual testing is crucial to keeping the disease out of North Dakota, especially with the crossover potential from cattle to wildlife.

"That is just another added measure of protection," Jensen said. "It refocuses our effort and our need to keep our eye on the ball on this issue. It's something that's not just going to go away."

To measure the economic impact this may have on Minnesota's cattle industry, Jensen pointed to Michigan, which lost its TB free status in 1990. Since then, Michigan has spent $10 million to $15 million a year on testing for the disease.

In an effort to prevent the disease from reaching North Dakota, it is Game and Fish Department policy to test any animal that is suspected of carrying the disease.

No animal has tested positive in the state of North Dakota since the early 1980's, something Jensen and those at the Game and Fish hope is a trend that continues.

"People are going to be hearing about this for a long time," Jensen said. "Once a disease like that is out there, it's kind of like an oil spill. It's not easy to clean up."

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