USDA downgrades New Mexico bovine TB status

Chelle Delaney

New Mexico officially lost its bovine tuberculosis free status on Thursday.

The action means that certain cattle will have to have more testing for bovine TB before being exported from the state.
The USDA downgraded New Mexico to “modified accredited advanced” status for bovine TB.

The USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service downgraded the state’s status after cows from two herds in Roosevelt and Curry counties tested positive for TB within a 48-month period.

Gov. Bill Richardson said on Thursday that the USDA’s decision to downgrade New Mexico’s bovine TB status is “excessive” and called on the federal agency to reconsider the status as soon as possible, according to a press release.

“Thousands of our livestock producers will now have to conduct expensive, cumbersome and unnecessary TB tests before shipping their livestock out of state,” said Richard in the release.

“This USDA action is out of proportion with the demonstrated low risk of TB among New Mexico’s cattle herds. … I call on the USDA to recognize the comprehensive action taken by the state’s cattle industry and to review the status as soon as possible,” Richardson said in the release.

New Mexico Livestock Board officials visited Tucumcari last week to discuss the matter with producers in anticipation of the downgrade.
They also said they are seeking “split state” status, which would narrow the downgraded area to Curry and Roosevelt counties, and allow the rest of the state to regain its TB-free status.

State Veterinarian Dave Fly said it could take as much as six months to have the USDA review and approve the request for split state status.
Some of the cattle not affected by the downgrade are those going to slaughter, such as those going to a feedlot.

Breeding cattle six months old or older must have a negative TB test.

Fly and Livestock Board executive director Myles Culbertson cautioned producers to be vigilant record keepers and to thoroughly research other state’s requirements before shipping cattle.

The additional testing could cost between $4 and $8 per cow, excluding other costs such a manpower and equipment to round up and pen cattle for testing.

If a single cow in a herd tests positive, it and the herd must be euthanized.

Overall costs of the new testing requirements are estimated to be $4 million.

The cattle industry is a $2 billion a year industry which employs thousands in New Mexico.