Texas reduces brucellosis test payments, requirements

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Texas authorities are no longer enforcing state regulations requiring brucellosis tests for cattle sold in the state, although most adult cattle still will be tested at slaughter.

The Texas Animal Health Commission announced that, as of Aug. 1, state authorities would stop enforcing requirements for brucellosis testing of adult, sexually intact animals when they change owners. Through a cooperative agreement between state and federal authorities, veterinarians had been paid to perform those tests.Cattle in the field

The change comes despite the fact that the only brucellosis infections found in a Texas cattle herd in the past five years were discovered through such tests at a livestock market. In January, blood tests performed at a livestock market identified three infected cattle, and tests on the source herd in southern Texas identified six more, according to the TAHC. The herd was depopulated.

Dr. Andy L. Schwartz, assistant executive director of the TAHC, said his agency would have preferred to continue requiring tests for changes of ownership for at least two more years, but representatives of Texas' cattle industry indicated the surveillance cost exceeded the value of the reduced risk. He said, however, that Texas' cattle and cattle products are safe.

State regulations still require brucellosis tests during changes of ownership, but the TAHC commissioners directed agency personnel to stop enforcing those rules, Dr. Schwartz said. He said about half of livestock market operators indicated they would continue testing either all adult cattle sold or those not being sent to slaughter.

Despite the discovery of the infected herd in January, Texas is still considered by the U.S. Department of Agriculture to be free of brucellosis, a status the state has kept since 2008. A state or area can keep its brucellosis-free status if herds with infections are quarantined, infected animals are destroyed, and the state and herd owners follow USDA guidance and requests for plans, tests, and surveillance.

In states that have not been considered free from brucellosis at least five years, all state-inspected and federally inspected slaughter facilities have to perform brucellosis tests on at least 95 percent of cattle and bison ages two years and older that arrive at the facilities, USDA regulations state. Commercial milk producers also need to have brucellosis tests on their cattle's milk at least twice yearly.

Those surveillance requirements don't apply to states whose domestic herds have been free from the disease for at least five years and whose wildlife are free from Brucella abortus, information from the USDA Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service states. Instead, they must, if requested by APHIS officials, participate in surveillance testing at slaughter.

The only known U.S. reservoirs of animals infected with brucellosis reside in the area surrounding Yellowstone National Park, where infections have been attributed to interactions between domestic herds and wild bison and elk. That area includes portions of Idaho, Montana, and Wyoming.