Texas livestock health officials will randomly select nearly 2,000 of
the state’s purebred or seed stock beef herds for cattle tuberculosis
(TB) testing this summer, to fulfill disease surveillance obligations
of the Texas Cattle TB plan.
The blueprint for regaining Texas’ TB-free status was developed
in 2002 by cattle industry representatives, with a recommendation for
the Texas Animal Health Commission (TAHC) to implement a TB testing effort.
The plan calls for TB testing all of the state’s 811 dairies and
about 2,400 purebred or seed stock beef herds. Dairy herd testing has
been completed, but only about 500 owners of purebred or seed stock beef
herds have volunteered for testing. Federal funds for herd testing expire
Oct. 1, so the TAHC is tackling the problem with a high-tech version of
drawing names from a hat.
“In early March, we reconvened the Texas TB Task Force, which included
leaders from the purebred cattle industry, to determine how to get herds
tested and meet the agreement made with the U.S. Department of Agriculture,
which has funded the plan,” said Dr. Bob Hillman, Texas’ state
veterinarian and executive director of the TAHC, the state’s livestock
and poultry health regulatory agency. “Random selection of herds
was seen as the most equitable way to complete a statistically valid disease
surveillance of purebred and seed stock cattle herds. By mid-April, a
computer program will pick names from a database listing purebred and
seed stock producers. We then will contact the ranchers to line up the
test that will be conducted by private veterinarians at no cost to the
“We will try to accommodate ranchers’ schedules, and if an
owner wants to volunteer their cattle for TB testing, we welcome their
participation,” he said. “No herd is too small for testing.”
Hillman said more than 500 private veterinary practitioners in Texas have
completed additional TB training and are on contract with the TAHC to
conduct herd tests. To volunteer herds for a test, locate a contract veterinarian,
or obtain information, ranchers should contact their local TAHC area office
or the TAHC headquarters in Austin at 800/550-8242.
Hillman said that dairies, purebred and seed stock beef herds were targeted
for testing, because, during the past 22 years, TB has been detected in
15 Texas dairies and six purebred cattle herds in nine counties, including
El Paso, Karnes, Comanche, Pecos, Uvalde, Fayette, Culberson, Grayson,
Zavala and Hamilton counties. Dr. Hillman stressed that dairy and purebred
beef cattle are no more susceptible to TB than commercial cattle, but
they usually are maintained in more confined conditions, which are conducive
to TB transmission. He said that milk from the dairies is safe, as pasteurization,
or heat treatment, kills the bacteria. Meat also is safe, as carcasses
are inspected for wholesomeness at slaughter, and cooking meat also kills
In 2000, Texas gained cattle TB-free status, with the exception of the
El Paso Milk Shed, where dairies with low levels of recurring infection
were still present. In 2002, the USDA pulled Texas’ “free”
status, after two infected herds were detected and depopulated, Hillman
said. A third TB-infected herd was detected and depopulated shortly afterward.
During the statewide dairy testing, which involved more than 335,000 head,
an infected herd was identified in Hamilton County and was depopulated
“Completing the disease surveillance of the purebred and seed stock
beef herds is extremely important,” Hillman said. “It will
allow Texas to fulfill its agreement with the USDA and states that receive
Texas cattle. We can then move forward to regain TB-free status and avoid
interstate movement restrictions on Texas cattle. Secondly, it will provide
Texas ranchers the assurance that there is no undetected infection in
these valuable herds.”
Hillman said other segments of the TB plan are ongoing and include:
• Testing dairy and breeding cattle being moved from Texas.
• Improved slaughter inspection by the USDA’s Food Safety
Inspection Service (FSIS).
• Requiring yearly TB tests on roping steers imported from Mexico.
• Continuing work with Mexican states on TB control and eradication.
“Cattle TB is not a disease we can learn to ‘live with,’”
Hillman said. “The contagious TB bacteria can cause cattle to develop
internal lesions, and in rare instances, can cause human illness. Regaining
cattle TB-free status must be a priority. In Texas, 2,000 ranchers will
make a profound difference by completing this disease surveillance effort.”
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