Extent of bovine TB in area unknown

By Tony Gutierrez: CNJ staff writer

The ramifications of last week’s discovery of bovine tuberculosis in dairy cattle in eastern New Mexico is still being determined, according to State Agriculture Secretary Miley Gonzalez.

Gonzalez said if the infected cattle are within the current federally restricted zone covering parts of Roosevelt and Curry counties, there would be no reason to expand the zone.

However, if the disease is found outside of the zone, the restricted area could grow and it’s possibile all cattle in the state may have to be tested, according to the state ag secretary, a scenario that could cost the state close to $4 million or $5 million.

“If it’s within the confines of our perimeter, we will probably keep our tuberculosis-free status outside of that,” Gonzalez said Monday.

“As far as I know, our status is still the same. Nothing has changed. The animals within that circumference can’t be moved unless they’re all inspected.”

Gonzalez confirmed Thursday that animals in a herd in Curry County had the disease. Two other dairies in Curry County are being tested for the disease.

Gonzalez said Monday he could not confirm if all the positive tests were in or outside the restricted zone.

Because of an outbreak of the disease three years ago, there are federal restrictions in Curry and Roosevelt counties that prevent dairy cattle from being shipped outside of that area. Cattle can be moved among dairies in the area, however. Milk from dairies in the area is tested and can be marketed outside of those counties, according to Gonzalez.

Gonzalez said all the cattle in the quarantined zone have to be tested. If they show an indication of TB, they will be purchased by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and slaughtered to undergo further scientific testing.

“In our last incident, we found that most of the animals were not positive,” Gonzalez said.

State and federal veterinarians are monitoring the area and conducting the tests.

“We’ve taken every precaution since we’ve been through this before,” Gonzalez said. “We can minimize the impact economically to our dairymen.”

Bovine TB is a highly contagious lung disease, which is spread by infected cattle coughing, snorting and bellowing in pastures or feedlots.

Because of the new outbreak of the disease, the federal restrictions on dairy cattle in the two counties likely will be extended for several additional years, Gonzalez said.