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Farmers must test cattle

TB scare prompts testing mandate

ALPENA — Cattle farmers in some parts of Presque Isle and Emmet counties will be required to participate in special surveillance testing, after cattle at farms in both counties tested positive for bovine tuberculosis.

Herd owners in these counties who are required to participate in the testing will receive a letter from the Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development with instructions on test scheduling. Michigan’s Assistant State Veterinarian Nancy Barr said herd owners should receive those letters this week.

“A top priority for us is to just control bovine TB and protect Michigan’s cattle industry in the entire state, so that’s our goal and intent,” Barr said. “We hope we can work with the producers, make it as least painful on them as possible but we know it does come with more work for them.”

Additionally, informational meetings have been scheduled to discuss the special surveillance testing. The meetings in Presque Isle County will be held on Aug. 13, with the first meeting scheduled for 2 p.m. at the Presque Isle District Library, located at 181 E. Erie St. The second meeting will be held at 7 p.m. at Allis Township Hall, located 20018 W. 638 Highway in Onaway.

A third meeting has been scheduled for 7 p.m. Aug. 14 at Friendship Township Hall, located at 3018 Beacon Hill Lane in Harbor Springs.

Presque Isle County is located outside of the Modified Accredited Zone – which is comprised of farms in Alpena, Alcona, Montmorency and Oscoda counties. Presque Isle County is considered to have TB free status, Barr said, but due to the county’s proximity to the MAZ, cattle farmers are required to participate in routine surveillance testing every three years.

It was during this routine surveillance testing that a cattle herd in the county tested positive for bovine tuberculosis. MDARD on May 1 announced that an infected herd had been identified in Presque Isle County. The herd has since been removed from the farm, according to Barr.

Barr said as part of the state agency’s investigation into herd movements, officials learned an animal from the herd in Presque Isle County had moved to a herd in Emmet County. It was the only animal in the Emmet County herd found to be infected, according to a press release from the state, and has since been removed.

The Emmet County herd remains under quarantine and will continue to undergo testing to confirm the remainder of the herd is negative for bovine TB.

State investigators were able to utilize whole genome sequencing to link the DNA of bovine TB found in the Presque Isle County and Emmet County herds to infected deer found in Presque Isle County in 2014 and 2015. Investigators were also able to conclude from the testing that the infected animal in the Emmet County herd was infected while it was previously in Presque Isle.

Barr said that based upon what they know about the area, and about bovine tuberculosis, special surveillance of testing around the infected herd is necessary.

Barr said the infected Presque Isle herd had only been assembled recently, and that it was possible those “source herds” could be where the infection originated. However, those “source herds” are no longer in business, according to Barr, and the state will have to include cattle farms around those source herds in the special surveillance testing.

“We’re pretty confident that we’ve found any animals that would have left the herd and so we found that one quite quickly and removed it,” she said, referring to the infected animal found in the Emmet County herd. “We’re doing quite a lot of investigation into anyone who purchased animals from the source herds and doing testing there, and so far, we haven’t found anything else.”

Barr said animals that have gone through whole herd testing this year won’t have to participate in the special surveillance testing. She said the state agency has six months to complete its testing once a special surveillance area is declared.

“Our intention is to test all of those herds in the next six months, which will be quite a lot of herds to test,” she said.

In addition to the special surveillance testing that will be completed this year, officials with the Michigan Department of Natural Resources are encouraging hunters to hunt and to submit their deer heads to the DNR for testing.

“Since bovine TB can become more prevalent with higher deer densities, we encourage hunters to get out in the woods this fall and keep hunting,” State Wildlife Veterinarian Kelly Straka said in the press release. “Increased harvest can help us fight bovine TB, and deer head submission by successful hunters is critical to detect any changes in the occurrence of the disease.”

The DNR has typically found one to two bovine tb infected deer every year in Presque Isle County. Locations and hours for checking deer can be found at Michigan.gov/DeerCheck.

Crystal Nelson can be reached at 989-358-5687 or cnelson@thealpenanews.com.