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250 show up for Bovine TB meeting

THIEF RIVER FALLS -- About 250 livestock owners crowded into a college theater here this morning to get the latest poop on the tuberculosis infection found in cattle herds and deer in the region.

THIEF RIVER FALLS -- About 250 livestock owners crowded into a college theater here this morning to get the latest poop on the tuberculosis infection found in cattle herds and deer in the region.

Bill Hartmann, Minnesota state veterinarian and executive director of the state's Board of Animal Health, said while the discovery 10 days ago of the 11th herd found since 2005 with TB-infected animals means more restrictions and costs for producers, there is some good news.

"There is a lot of places where there isn't TB," Hartmann said. The past 2 years of testing the state's herds since one was found near Skime, Minn., with TB has proven that the entire state is TB-free, except for a relatively small area north of here, Hartmann said. The 11 infected herds are all within about 45 miles, he said, and testing of hundreds of herds across the state show that the infection is very localized. The 17 wild deer found to have TB are in an even smaller area within that region, he said.

Hartmann and other state and federal officials are holding meetings for cattle owners this week. Last night, 450 people attended the meeting in Grygla, Minn., which has a population of only about 200, Hartmann said. "So, apparently this is an important issue up here," he said dryly. But it's also a national issue, and part of a century-long effort to eradicate bovine TB, he said.

Recently, a dairy herd in California was found to have TB-infected animals. Michigan has fought the disease for 12 years, Hartmann said.

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He said state and federal officials are discussing taking a "split-state" approach, that would keep most of Minnesota under the current, "modified accredited advanced (MAA) status the second of five status levels under USDA regulations while an area including western Lake of the Woods County, eastern Kittson, northeast Marshall County and northwest Beltrami County and all of Roseau County would be downgraded to modified accredited (MA) status, the third of the five levels.

That would make things better for most of the state's cattle producers, while helping to focus the limited state and federal resources on the area where TB has been found Hartmann said.

If the entire state is downgraded by USDA to MA status, there aren't even enough veterinarians to do all the testing necessary, Hartmann said.

But it's important to keep up the good work already done by producers and government officials, because if the state is downgraded to the fourth status level the first level is TB-free which the state had been for decades the commercial cattle industry would essentially be stopped in its tracks, Hartmann warned.

"You have helped," he told the producers. "We want you to be doing what you have been doing. Come to these meetings. We need your input."

Some producers have resisted having their herds tested. "Or we show up and they say, "there there are,' and go in and have coffee," Hartmann said, drawing chuckles from the crowd. "We need your help."

The meeting began at 9 a.m. and was expected to last until at least noon.

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