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BOAH reacts quickly to investigate tuberculosis in steersBOAH reacts quickly to investigate tuberculosis in steers

BOAH head says system is working and threat is pinpointed.

Tom Bechman 1

June 2, 2016

3 Min Read

A case of tuberculosis was reported in Indiana in May. Bret Marsh, state veterinarian and head of the Indiana Board of Animal Health, says the situation is under control. He also says that it was an example of how protections in place can work to quickly identify sources of infected animals.

Here is a short update with Marsh.

 IPF: It’s been reported that tuberculosis was discovered in a cattle herd in Indiana recently. Can you verify that?

Marsh: Yes. It was discovered on a farm in Franklin County in southeast Indiana.

IPF: How was it detected?


Marsh: It was an example of how the traceability system is supposed to work. The market where the producer sold the steers placed trace-back stickers on each animal. The animals were shipped to a packer in Pennsylvania. The packer keeps accurate records. After slaughter, lungs in six of the 11 animals showed scarring from six of the 11 steers. Since they had records through the trace-back tags, the packer could pinpoint which producer sold the cattle. Within a matter of hours we were talking to the producer. He was most cooperative.

IPF: What happens next?

Marsh: The herd that the infected cattle came from is being depopulated. We will also be testing all cattle within 3 miles of each of the two locations where the producer has cattle.

IPF: Will the producer be compensated for his loss, since cattle must be destroyed?

Marsh: Yes. USDA pays through an indemnification program. One thing that came out of the avian flu crisis in the Midwest in 2015 was an improved system for paying producers who lost livestock in these situations. He will be paid in a timely manner.

IPF: Who is responsible for paying for testing cattle of other producers in the area?

Marsh: BOAH will test other animals that had fence-line contact with the infected herd. Under state law, the county is responsible for paying for the rest of the testing. What normally happens is that the county is notified, and then local veterinarians assist in the testing and are compensated for their work.

IPF: Tuberculosis does not spread as quickly as highly pathogenic diseases, like avian flu, correct?

Marsh: That is correct. However, we still believe it’s prudent to test all cattle within a 3-mile radius of each location to determine if any other animals are infected.

IPF: Has this producer had cases of tuberculosis before?

Marsh: No. However, there was a case in the same general area in 2009.

IPF: Has the source of the infection been identified?

Marsh: No. We will be concentrating on doing what it takes to discover why it is showing up in that area.

IPF: Did premise identification play a role in this case?

Marsh: The producer has his proper premise ID information. However, we found him from the trace-back tags. The premise ID information in our database was very helpful in identifying where other cattle within the 3-mile radius areas were located.

IPF: Can technology help in tracking the source of infection?

Marsh: We hope so. USDA’s lab is capable of identifying tuberculosis by type today. That will let us know if it is the same type that has been identified in the area before. It should be very useful as we continue searching for the source.

About the Author(s)

Tom Bechman 1

Editor, Indiana Prairie Farm

Tom Bechman is an important cog in the Farm Progress machinery. In addition to serving as editor of Indiana Prairie Farmer, Tom is nationally known for his coverage of Midwest agronomy, conservation, no-till farming, farm management, farm safety, high-tech farming and personal property tax relief. His byline appears monthly in many of the 18 state and regional farm magazines published by Farm Progress.

"I consider it my responsibility and opportunity as a farm magazine editor to supply useful information that will help today's farm families survive and thrive," the veteran editor says.

Tom graduated from Whiteland (Ind.) High School, earned his B.S. in animal science and agricultural education from Purdue University in 1975 and an M.S. in dairy nutrition two years later. He first joined the magazine as a field editor in 1981 after four years as a vocational agriculture teacher.

Tom enjoys interacting with farm families, university specialists and industry leaders, gathering and sifting through loads of information available in agriculture today. "Whenever I find a new idea or a new thought that could either improve someone's life or their income, I consider it a personal challenge to discover how to present it in the most useful form, " he says.

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