TB Heartbreak | TSLN.com

TB Heartbreak

In late September United States authorites discovered that a Canadian cow slaughtered in the U.S. was infected with Bovine Tuberculosis.

Since the discovery, five other head of cattle have tested positive for tuberculosis in Alberta as of Nov. 28.

A rough estimate of 10,000 cattle are at risk of being depopulated for being exposed to the disease, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) reported Monday in The Canadian Press. Approximately 22,000 cattle are in quarantine, the same report said. Forty cattle operations have been affected, 18 of which are within the high-risk category. Most of the operations are in Alberta, with no more than five being located in Saskatchewan, said the CFIA.

"Right now what we're looking at are six confirmed cases," said Karin Schmid, Beef Production Specialist at Alberta Beef Producers (ABP). "They combine herds on risk analysis, and they're located on 18 premises that are affected and will be depopulated. It's in the neighborhood of 10,000 roughly estimated to be depopulated. That number of course could change as they go through this whole process; they may find that some don't need to be included in that number."

“The overall industry hasn’t seen market effects. The impacts have come in for producers under quarantine; they often sell calves in fall and don’t winter them, and now they have twice the number of animals. The depopulations and effect that has are devastating. Individuals that are dealing with this are affected, but the industry as a whole hasn’t been affected.” Karin Schmid, beef production specialist at ABP

The disease unfolded with Brad Osadczuk's single cow that was discovered in September to have a strain of tuberculosis that hasn't been found in Canada before and is linked to a strain found in Central Mexico in 1997. Canada has an electronic tag system in which each animal leaving its premises must be registered, linking the cow back to the original herd owned by Osadczuk, in Jenner, Alberta.

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The beef industry has not been affected by the tuberculosis cases, according to Schmid.

"The overall industry hasn't seen market effects. The impacts have come in for producers under quarantine; they often sell calves in fall and don't winter them, and now they have twice the number of animals," Schmid said. "The depopulations and affect that has are devastating. Individuals that are dealing with this are affected, but the industry as a whole hasn't been affected."

Since the initial discovery, depopulation has begun, as has compensation for the death of cattle or other animals ordered to be destroyed due to exposure, disposal of animals, and the cost of testing, Schmid said. CFIA doesn't cover the extra feed needed to keep animals that would regularly be sold this time of year but are instead under quarantine. ABP has stepped in for such expenses.

"We are working with provincial and federal government for compensation that are outside of what CFIA compensates," Schmid said. "We are working, too, with provincial and federal government to secure compensation for those extras outside of what CFIA compensates, like feed, marketing losses, cleaning and disinfection, some of those losses. For those under quarantine, it's going to be a long process. One of the issues is that some tests for TB take a long time, so it's unclear when quarantines may be lifted. It won't be anytime soon."

In a report published Nov. 1 in Global News, Osadczuk listed his animals that will likely destroyed. "Three-hundred-and-eighty-five cows and calves, cow calf pairs and 51 bulls and every other animal on the farm. Horses, cats, dogs – you name it," he said.

"I think it's a lot of emotional hardship. For many of [the producers under quarantine], the financial bit actually comes second. One of the issues in that particular area of Alberta is that water wells can't keep up with extra cattle. The number one thing going on in these producers' minds is taking care of cattle while in quarantine."

ABP is working to alleviate financial pressure for ranchers.

Alberta native Lisa Surber worries about the state of producers – financially and emotionally "It is just so sad. The government doesn't understand what is happening to these people and their lifetime investment – their ranches, their animals. It is serious no doubt and it is being handled, but maybe not as timely as some would like."

Surber grew up on a southern Alberta cattle ranch and is now employed by the American Sheep Association. She said the disease isn't just a Canadian concern. "I think we all need to remember that this could easily happen in Montana or Wyoming or South Dakota, or anywhere for that matter."

"We're fairly successful in working on a protocol for weaned calves to be moved to feedlots," Schmid said. "We're currently pursuing a location we think would work; we need to sort out logistics and details and get some contracts signed for those calves to be moved and hopefully take some of the pressure off."

The tuberculosis has been rumored to be started by a nearby elk preserve, and that guess has been neither confirmed nor denied.

"The elk connection is looking unlikely as the source," Schmid said. "I don't think I'd rule it out as there's evidence of some tuberculosis in elk, but this strain hasn't been found in wildlife or domestic animals in Canada."

CFIA would not answer questions prior to publication. "Everyone is working on the file," a representative from CFIA said. "The quarantine will remain in place until testing is complete, and testing is ongoing. Compensation has been started."

The Canadian Press Nov. 28 report stated "CFIA chief veterinary officer Dr. Harpeet Kochhar said only slaughtered animals that test negative for bovine TB will be deemed acceptable for human consumption."

This disease can instigate a lengthy process as exemplified by ongoing cases of bovine tuberculosis in Texas and Michigan from 2015. Mitigation efforts in those states are still in multiple stages, including quarantine and depopulation.

Montana's state vet believes testing protocol will keep livestock in his state TB-free. "Despite what feels like close proximity of this incident, Montana cattle producers remain safe," said Montana State Veterinarian, Marty Zaluski in a news release. "Canada's vigorous response, combined with our requirement that Canadian cattle be TB tested before entering Montana, keeps the risk low for ranchers in the state."

Zaluski is not planning to place additional requirements on Canadian cattle coming to Montana at this time.

"I am closely monitoring CFIA's efforts and am ready to act aggressively if needed," said Zaluski.

TB in the USA

Michigan has been host to 65 tuberculosis-infected herds since 1998, with four of those herd discoveries happening in 2015, according to monthly Tuberculosis and Brucellosis reports released by United States Department of Agriculture Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service.

Several Texas producers have been under quarantine, the first of which since Oct. 2014, as cited in the same report. More than 500 cattle have been depopulated among four Texas dairy facilities. Individual cases cropped up in California and Indiana earlier this year, according to USDA.

What is bovine tuberculosis?

Bovine TB is a contagious, chronic bacterial disease caused by Mycobacterium bovis.

The infection commonly involves the lungs, but it may spread to other organs. Animals often don’t show signs until the infection has reached an advanced stage.

Bovine TB primarily affects cattle, but it can be transmitted to any warmblooded animal, including people.

Bovine TB is difficult to diagnose with clinical signs alone. In the early stages of TB, clinical signs are not visible. In later stages, clinical signs may include: emaciation, lethargy, weakness, anorexia, low-grade fever, and pneumonia with a chronic, moist cough. Lymph nodes may also be enlarged.

TB can be introduced into a herd by infected animals or people. In the United States, the two most common methods of introduction are: 1) Purchase of or exposure to infected cattle, or 2) Exposure to infected free-ranging wildlife.

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