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USDA takes more steps to combat BSE

According to DeHaven, the calves will be transported to a slaughter facility that currently is not being used. “We will have animal care experts on hand both at the farm where the calves are loaded, as well as the slaughter facility, to ensure humane treatment and handling of those calves,” he says. “None of the materials from those materials will either go into the human food chain, nor will they go into a rendered product.”

The owners of the 450 cows being sacrificed will be paid by USDA under a government indemnity program. Under the program, USDA will pay a “fair market value” for the animals, and then will take ownership of the animals prior to their slaughter.

Meanwhile, DNA testing of the cattle related to the diseased cow is continuing, USDA says. USDA says it is running a number of samples, including the DNA from the semen from what they think is the male parent of the infected cow, DNA from both male and female offspring of the cow in question, and the DNA from the brain of the positive cow.

“In doing the DNA testing what USDA is looking at is specific points along the DNA chain. They are looking for similarities between the different samples that have been submitted, and attaching a probability to that based on the number of points along that chain that are similar between the different samples, USDA says.

The brains of those bull calves being euthanized this week will not, however, be tested for BSE.

That’s because research has shown that the disease does not show up in the cattle’s brain, even in infected animals, until the animal is at least 30 months of age.

“In fact, the most accepted and broadly quoted studies being done in Britain would suggest that even in animals experimentally infected with a high dose, you don't find the infectious agent even in brain tissue until typically at the earliest 32 months of age. So there would be no purpose in testing all of these animals, because even in the unlikely event that there had been maternal transmission to this single bull calf, the calf would not test positive at this point in time,” DeHaven says.

“Having said that, just as a precaution, we will be collecting blood samples from the appropriate subpopulation or subgroup of animals that are going to be euthanized, so if we should need to do some DNA testing or other type of testing we would have those materials in the future,” he says.

“But again, the science would say that to test all of those brains would not be fruitful, in that you wouldn't expect, even if there had been transmission of the disease, which is unlikely, but even if there had been the animal would not test positive.”

USDA is also continuing to trace the paths of those 82 cows that presumably entered the United States with the BSE positive cow. “Nine of those are known to be part of the index herd from which the positive cow departed immediately before she went to slaughter, and we believe that one still may be in Canada. There is nothing new significant to report at this point on the whereabouts of the other 70 animals,” DeHaven says.

“Our epidemiological investigation on those animals continued through the weekend, and we have made significant progress in terms of tracing where they may have gone subsequent to entering the United States.”


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