COLUMBUS, Ohio - The Ohio Department of Agriculture is easing the restrictions on bovine tuberculosis requirements for imported cattle herds.
Lee McPhail, ODA Assistant Chief of the Division of Animal Industry, said the rule has been amended to allow herds to enter the state that tested negative for tuberculosis within 12 months prior to entry. The original rule required herds to be free of the disease within six months prior to entry. Individual animals are still required to test negative within 60 days prior to entering Ohio.
"The change is to comply with federal regulations dealing with interstate movement of animals," said McPhail. The amended rule is expected to take effect in August.
Despite the slight relaxation in the import rules, McPhail said the beef and dairy industries continue to express concerns over the possibility of Ohio cattle becoming infected with bovine tuberculosis.
Bill Shulaw, an Ohio State University veterinarian, stressed the importance for Ohio producers to comply with the laws when moving cattle across the Ohio-Michigan border. "There is a lot of animal traffic across state lines and because of that there is potential for some herds in Ohio to become exposed," said Shulaw. "It's important to follow all laws in Ohio and in Michigan, especially if producers have direct access to showing or moving cattle across state lines or buying cattle along the border." Bovine tuberculosis is caused by a bacterium called Mycobacterium bovis and is highly infectious. It can be easily transmitted between wildlife and farm animals, specifically cattle, if they come into close contact with infected animals or have contact with infectious body secretions. The disease mainly affects the respiratory system but can spread to other parts of the body and can be fatal.
Bovine tuberculosis, which has been nearly eradicated in United States cattle herds, has been giving Michigan producers problems for almost a decade after it was discovered in the deer population and subsequently detected in some cattle herds in the northern part of the state. The Michigan Departments of Agriculture, Natural Resources and Community Health; Michigan State University; and the U.S. Department of Agriculture, have developed an extensive eradication program to make sure the disease is eliminated and Michigan regains its TB-free status.
Deer appear to be the main reservoir for the disease in Michigan, although it has been found in bear, bobcat, coyotes, fox, raccoons, elk and opposum. As of March 2001, over 443,939 livestock (cattle, bison, and goats) and over 11,400 privately owned deer and elk have been tested for bovine tuberculosis. Since testing began, 13 cattle herds and one privately owned deer herd have been confirmed to be infected with the disease.
Bovine tuberculosis may be a bigger threat to Ohio's cattle than foot-and-mouth disease. "Unlike foot-and-mouth disease whose symptoms in cattle are usually obvious and easy to detect, bovine tuberculosis is a very insidious disease," said Shulaw. "It's easy to dismiss minor coughing and weight loss as signs of a major illness, and by the time a farmer detects anything serious the disease has spread to other animals." Bovine tuberculosis is not present in Ohio. The ODA has tested samples from Ohio's deer population in the northernmost counties for the presence of bovine tuberculosis three times over the past six years. To date, no deer have been found with the disease. Ohio is home to approximately 265,000 dairy cows and 1.2 million beef cattle and calves that would be susceptible to the disease if discovered in the state.