Board expected to extend mandatory bovine TB testing

By Chelle Delaney: Freedom New Mexico

Mandatory bovine tuberculosis testing is expected to be extended to the whole state starting next week, according to the state veterinarian and officials of the New Mexico Livestock Board.

New Mexico is expected to be added to a list of states that have been declared “modified accredited advanced” by the USDA because of an animal that was infected with bovine TB in Curry County earlier this year.

The downgraded status means producers will have to test all dairy and beef cattle within 60 days of shipping the livestock across the state line, said State Veterinarian Dave Fly.

Other federal guidelines and regulations concerning the modified accredited advanced status must also be followed.

The new status is expected to come at an annual statewide cost to producers of $8 million, Fly said.

Portions of Curry and Roosevelt counties have already been designated as modified accredited advanced after an outbreak several years ago.

Fly and other state officials explained the problem and effects of the anticipated downgrade at a presentation to about 100 producers and attendees in Tucumcari.

“It costs between $3 and $25 per head to test,” Fly said.

There are also additional costs, such as feeding and keeping livestock penned up during the required three-day test period, and the necessary two trips to administer the test and determine the results, which requires the visit of a veterinarian, said one producer at the meeting.

In order to be declared tuberculosis-free, the state must have no cattle that test positive for the disease for 24 months, Fly said.

In May, the New Mexico congressional delegation sought to persuade the USDA not to downgrade the entire state.

U.S. Sens. Jeff Bingaman and Pete Domenici, and U.S. Reps. Heather Wilson, Tom Udall and Steve Pearce, objected to the USDA’s plan to force all New Mexico ranchers and dairies to test their cattle for bovine TB.

“In 2003, bovine TB was discovered in cattle in two counties — Curry and Roosevelt — and the New Mexico delegation was successful in ensuring that only the cattle from a portion of the affected counties needed to be tested before they were shipped out of state. Unfortunately, earlier this year, a single new animal from a feedlot in Curry County was found to be infected with bovine TB,” according to a press release in May by Bingaman.

The delegation sought a review of the planned downgrade and said it would be costly for New Mexico producers.

“The livestock industry is New Mexico’s single most important agricultural commodity with annual sales of milk and beef cattle totaling almost $2 billion. There are over 1.5 million cattle and calves in New Mexico, including 340,000 dairy cows,” said Bingaman in the release.