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Serving: IN

Hunters can help search for TB in deer this fall

Hunters can help search for TB in deer this fall
Surveillance of the deer population is also vital to keeping Indiana's bovine TB-free status.

You’ve heard of manhunts for suspected criminals or escaped prisoners. Consider this a story about a "bug hunt" of major proportions. The bug that's most wanted is the bacteria that causes bovine tuberculosis. Whether or not Indiana retains bovine TB-free status may depend on completing this hunt and proving to USDA that no livestock or wildlife are infected in an area where TB infections were reported.

“This is a very big deal, especially for livestock producers,” says Denise Derrer, director of communications for the Indiana State Board of Animal Health.

DEER PART OF TB PUZZLE: Genetic DNA sampling indicating that TB discovered in a white-tailed deer and a herd of cattle are the same strain add information to the recent Franklin County TB puzzle. (Photo credit: merrilyanne/iStock/Thinkstock)

Recently Derrer agreed to a question-and-answer session about the issue with Indiana Prairie Farmer. Here is part two in a three-part series about dealing with the discovery of TB in a cattle herd and a white-tailed deer in Franklin County.

IPF: Where does the Indiana Department of Natural Resources factor into the bovine tuberculosis situation?

Derrer: Personnel have collected wildlife from the infected farm site, including small fur-bearing animals but primarily white-tailed deer. Part of the provisions for keeping Indiana’s bovine TB-free status includes surveillance of the wildlife population. The zones for surveillance include all areas within a 10-mile radius of a farm where the infected doe was found, plus 2 miles on either side of the Whitewater River all the way to the Ohio line.

IPF: How is DNR assisting?

Derrer: The agency is expanding its hunter-harvest surveillance in the area beyond what we’ve been doing since 2009. Since then, more than 400 hunter-harvested deer have tested negative for TB, plus negative visual checks of more than 1,000 carcasses at check stations.  

IPF: How can hunters help?

Derrer: If they are field-dressing a harvested deer and notice something unusual inside the carcass, we want them to either call us or DNR. They can contact BOAH at 317-544-2400. We’re also alerting slaughter facility operators to call us if personnel notice something unusual.

IPF: A hunter might hesitate to report it if he or she fears losing the meat. Has this been addressed?

Derrer: Yes. DNR can give them information on how to get a replacement tag so they can harvest another deer if they lose access to the meat. For details, visit in.gov/dnr/fishwild/9320.htm.

IPF: Why is there so much emphasis on deer surveillance?

Derrer: First, we have reviewed tests on the four herds in the area where TB was found over the past several years. There is no common connection through livestock movement and records. The only thing they have in common is being located relatively close together, all fairly close to the Whitewater River.

Second, USDA genetic testing of DNA of the TB bacteria from each of these farms and from the white-tailed doe diagnosed with TB recently shows that it is the same strain of bacteria. Finally, deer have been known to be a reservoir of bovine TB in other states. We don’t have proof, but it’s a connection worth pursuing.

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