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VIEWPOINT: Bovine TB can, should be eradicated in Minnesota

By Mark William Johnson GRAND RAPIDS, Minn. --- Since the 2005 discovery of bovine tuberculosis in a northwestern Minnesota cattle herd, state officials have identified 10 more infected beef herds. At the same time, the search for TB in wild deer...

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By Mark William Johnson

GRAND RAPIDS, Minn. --- Since the 2005 discovery of bovine tuberculosis in a northwestern Minnesota cattle herd, state officials have identified 10 more infected beef herds. At the same time, the search for TB in wild deer in the area has led to testing of 8,222 deer.

This extensive testing has uncovered 18 deer testing positive and five to eight more suspect deer undergoing further testing. Additionally, 16 wild elk have been tested, all negative for TB. Testing continues, and this fall, the state Department of Natural Resources anticipates sampling and testing approximately 1,000 more hunter-harvested deer and several elk.

If you live, visit or have relatives in northwestern Minnesota, you know of the widely differing opinions concerning efforts toward TB eradication. While some say not enough is being done, others say too much has been done. The only thing it seems everyone can agree upon is that, right or wrong, something is being done.

What is the Minnesota Deer Hunters Association's stance? In a nutshell, the association supports the joint efforts of the state Board of Health, Board of Animal Health, Department of Agriculture and DNR. Since 2005, the association has been conversing and cooperating with each of the agencies. In fact, we have gone on record asking everyone including hunters, cattlemen and business leaders, to support the effort.

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Having TB in our cattle and deer doesn't help anyone. Our choice as to what action to take must be based upon what's best for everyone, including those who come after us.

One thing is fairly certain: If we choose to do nothing, we'll ensure that TB remains in cattle and in deer and that the TB cycle continues, including the inevitable expansion of TB into the rest of Minnesota as well as North Dakota and Canada. A "do nothing" approach simply is not responsible.

On behalf of the association, I convey our support to the professionals who are working hard to eradicate TB.

I also convey our support to the cattle operators who are suffering misfortune, and I offer our thanks to everyone involved in helping in any way with the TB eradication effort.

TB is not your problem or my problem. TB is everyone's problem. TB costs livestock producers and taxpayers across the state millions of dollars each year and is affecting every facet of life in northwestern Minnesota in some way.

So, the quicker TB is eradicated, the better off everyone will be.

If we want to protect Minnesota's wildlife resources and cattle industry, we have only one choice, and that is to get involved and support the eradication of TB from Minnesota.

Johnson is executive director of the Minnesota Deer Hunters Association.

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