Curry County cattle to be slaughtered

The Associated Press

ALBUQUERQUE — The state will have about 12,000 dairy cattle in a Curry County herd slaughtered after 150 to 200 head were confirmed earlier this year with bovine tuberculosis.

The infected cattle were killed earlier this year. The rest of the herd was free of the disease, but will be shipped to slaughterhouses so the state can meet a Dec. 14 deadline and ensure that bovine tuberculosis does not spread, Dr. Dave Fly, state veterinarian, told the Albuquerque Journal in a copyright story Friday.

The highly contagious pulmonary disease causes severe coughing, fatigue, emaciation and debilitation. The disease, which can be fatal, is commonly spread when an infected cow coughs or snorts and other cattle inhale airborne particles.

It can be passed from cattle to humans, but Fly called the possibility “a minimal public health issue.”

Bovine TB is considered untreatable, so both infected and non-infected cattle in a herd must be killed.

Intensive testing in the area has turned up no new cases since June, and pasteurization kills any tuberculosis-causing bacteria in milk. Dairy workers tested negative for TB, Fly said.

The Curry County cattle that will be slaughtered were exposed to the disease because they were in the same dairy with infected cattle, said Myles Culbertson, executive director of the New Mexico Livestock Board.

“There is no safety issue with the meat,” he said. “Those cattle are not infected, so they’re good to go into the food chain.”
The slaughtered cattle will be subject to increased inspection, Fly said.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture will pay the dairy owner the herd’s appraised value — $20 million to $25 million — and related costs, such as shipping the cattle to a slaughterhouse, Culbertson said.

The USDA will recover some costs from meat packers who buy the beef.

The outbreak was detected in April and traced back to the Do-rene and Milagro dairies.

Federal rules require that if at least two cases are found in separate herds within 48 months, a state loses its designation as a TB-free state. But Fly said that because the Curry County dairies have common ownership, it was considered one herd and New Mexico retained its status.

Without the TB-free designation, nearly all cattle would have to be tested and certified as free from TB before they could be shipped outside New Mexico.

Losing the designation would cost the state’s cattle and dairy industry an estimated $4 million to $6 million a year in additional testing, Fly said.

A portion of the state around Portales already lacks TB-free status because of an outbreak of bovine tuberculosis there in 2003.

That special zone has operated since 2005 under strict guidelines, and any breeding cattle shipped from it must be tested and certified as free from the disease. A zone can be eliminated only after it has no positive cattle TB tests for about two years.

Information from: Albuquerque Journal,