California ranchers have again stamped out bovine tuberculosis and should have an easier time moving cattle out of state, under a new Agriculture Department rule issued Monday.
Three years after the potentially devastating disease was last detected in a Tulare County dairy herd, federal officials have reclassified California as accredited free of bovine TB. The long-sought status relieves some testing requirements on interstate shipments.
Immediate action is warranted to relieve restrictions on the interstate movement of cattle and bison from the State of California.
U.S. Department of Agriculture
The regulatory shift also marks a victory for the California Department of Food and Agriculture and the latest turn in a disease-fighting battle that dates back to 1917, when the state started its first concerted bovine tuberculosis eradication campaign.
“California has demonstrated that it has zero percent prevalence of cattle and bison herds affected with tuberculosis, and has had no findings of tuberculosis in any cattle or bison in the state since the last affected herd completed a test-and-remove herd plan and was released from quarantine in July 2014,” the Agriculture Department stated Monday.
The reclassification is the first time since 2008 that the Agriculture Department has considered California to be “accredited free.” The state, whose status has bounced around over the years, was downgraded in 2008 following the detection of bovine TB in two Fresno County dairy herds.
Subsequent discoveries of the disease in San Bernardino County in 2011, and Tulare County in 2013, frustrated the state’s efforts to regain its status. Now that it’s finally happened, though, it’s taking effect quickly.
In a noteworthy move, the Agriculture Department declared Monday that “immediate action is warranted” to relieve California’s interstate shipment restrictions. Instead of awaiting results of the standard two-month public comment period, the reclassification began right away on Monday with publication in the Federal Register.
“We’re just trying to help producers more quickly,” said Joelle Hayden, spokesperson for the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service.
Officials might later make revisions, based on the comments received through Oct 7.
“This announcement is several years, thousands of lab tests and hundreds of herd inspections in the making,” said California state veterinarian Dr. Annette Jones.
Cattle in states that aren’t classified as “accredited free” are subjected to certain testing prior to interstate shipping. Approximately 100,000 bovine tuberculosis tests were conducted in California last year to meet import requirements of other states, according to the Agriculture Department.
Tests cost between $10 and $15 per head.
Bovine tuberculosis is a contagious disease caused by a bacterium and is often marked by lesions on the lungs, intestines or other body parts. It can spread to other species, including humans, and if left unchecked it can wreck whole herds.
At the beginning of the 20th century, Agriculture Department officials noted, “tuberculosis caused more losses of livestock than all other livestock diseases combined.”
The federal officials based their new reclassification on a review of California’s tuberculosis eradication program during the week of April 18, 2016.