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Michigan hopes to regain TB-free status within year
Michigan Correspondent

LANSING, Mich. — Within the next year part of Michigan could regain its bovine tuberculosis (TB) free status.

Michigan lost its TB-free status eight years ago. However, with the state’s aggressive testing and eradication efforts it is possible that the lower portion of the Lower Peninsula could regain TB-free status within a year, explained Dr. Michael VanderKlok, the Michigan Department of Agriculture’s bovine TB eradication coordinator.

Also known as the Modified Accredited Advanced (MAA) zone, the area covers 57 counties in Michigan’s Lower Peninsula. The proposed TB-free area would include Kalkaska, Roscommon and most of Ogemaw and Iosco counties and all counties south to the Michigan border.

VanderKlok said the TB-free status won’t come easily, but he believes that it is attainable. The Upper Peninsula was declared free of bovine TB in 2005.

“The USDA has informed us that with some changes in our program, including bringing our state requirements in line with changes in the federal law, they would encourage us to submit an application for TB-free status for the Modified Accredited Advanced zone,” he said.

Those changes would include random whole-herd surveillance testing to continue for one year after the application for TB free status in the MAA zone is submitted.

Michigan testing requirements for sexually intact animals in the MAA zone would also be consistent with new federal regulations requiring testing of animals six months or older for movement to other zones in Michigan or to other states. Movement certificates also may be required.

Currently, the state requirement in the MAA zone calls for testing animals at 18 months to move to another zone if the animal is sexually intact.

Animals still may be moved with official metal identification ear tags. However, after March 1, 2007, electronic identification eartags will be required throughout the state.

In the last year, MDA has identified seven heifers - five beef and two dairy - in the state’s modified accredited zone that have tested positive for bovine TB. All of the animals were destroyed, including dogs, cats and all other mammals on the farms, in an effort to eradicate the disease.

Bovine TB is a chronic bacterial disease that usually attacks the lungs. It can be transmitted through saliva and other discharges of infected animals. Young animals and humans can contract the disease by drinking raw milk from infected animals.

VanderKlok said that while the disease can be spread from one cattle herd to another, it is most often contracted from deer or other infected wildlife.

“We’re not seeing it spread between herds, but that has to be part of our next focus, to mitigate that risk,” he said.

“It will probably take a much longer time period to eradicate TB from the wildlife herd.”

In the United States, the chance of humans getting bovine TB from animals is highly remote.

However, bovine TB is costly to the livestock industry and can create trade barriers.

Until the disease is eradicated from Michigan, other states will continue to impose restrictions on the sale and movement of the state’s livestock.

VanderKlok said Michigan is one of only three states that does not have TB-free status. The others are Minnesota and a small portion of New Mexico.

Texas recently regained its TB-free status.

The application process in Michigan would take about a year to complete, according to VanderKlok. In addition to a written plan - or a zoning order - public hearings must be conducted throughout the state to receive input on the proposal.

The MDA also would have to meet the USDA’s requirements. “First we would get the zoning order done and then we apply for free status,” VanderKlok said. “We plan to have meetings around the state in December and January.”

VanderKlok said it’s a long process and there are no guarantees, “but we’re optimistic.”

Ernie Birchmeier, livestock and dairy specialist with Michigan Farm Bureau, said to do everything the MDA has asked them to do” to help move the state back to TB free status.

“The implementation of the electronic ID program is being looked at very favorably by the Michigan Department of Agriculture,” Birchmeier said, because it allows cattle to be traced almost instantly to their point of origin.

Birchmeier and VanderKlok agree that TB-free status would be beneficial to the state’s producers for increasing the marketability of their animals.

“If you don’t have the TB-free status you are at a marketing disadvantage,” VanderKlok said.

“We have to prove to our trading partners in those states that are close to us that we can do a thorough job of tracking and tracing the disease with our identification program,” Birchmeier said.

“We have seen a tremendous amount of cooperation between the beef and dairy industry in Michigan and the private practitioners in state and federal agencies. We know more about the disease than other states and we are working hard to eliminate it.”

This farm news was published in the Nov. 29, 2006 issue of Farm World, serving Indiana, Ohio, Illinois, Kentucky, Michigan and Tennessee.