Texas Acquires its Brucellosis-Free Status

TEXAS, US - Texas beef and dairy cattle producers, cattle feeders and markets operators achieved a long-sought victory Friday, Feb. 1, when the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced that Texas has achieved cattle brucellosis-free status.
calendar icon 4 February 2008
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For nearly 50 years, Texas cattle producers battled brucellosis, or “Bangs Disease,” the bacterial disease that is caused by Brucella abortus. The disease can cause cows to abort, deliver weak calves or produce less milk. Cattle brucellosis is a zoonotic disease (can be spread from animals to man) that caused significant human disease incidence until the eradication program reduced the incidence of the disease in cattle, and, sanitary practices and pasteurization procedures for milk were implemented to reduce transmission to humans. All other states in the United States are classified brucellosis-free, some for more than 25 years.

"Texas was the last state to achieve the ‘free’ status. We have more herds and more cattle than any other state­14 million at last count."
Dr. Bob Hillman, Texas’ state veterinarian and head of the Texas Animal Health Commission (TAHC)

“Texas was the last state to achieve the ‘free’ status. We have more herds and more cattle than any other state­14 million at last count. We also had more brucellosis infection to fight. In 1959, when Texas officially joined the national eradication program, we had more than 20,000 of the country’s 100,000 infected herds,” said Dr. Bob Hillman, Texas’ state veterinarian and head of the Texas Animal Health Commission (TAHC), the state’s livestock and poultry health regulatory agency.

“This victory for the cattle industry did not come easily or without hardship,” said Dr. Hillman. “For many cattle producers in the early days of the program, it meant losing a herd with only salvage value payment, or having the herd under quarantine and being unable to sell animals for long periods of time. Some producers’ herds became re-infected. In recent years, infected herds were purchased from owners and depopulated whenever possible, to quickly wipe out infection.”

Dr. Hillman credited the 2006 Brucellosis Eradication Working Group with re-evaluating all aspects of the Texas brucellosis program, in preparation for the USDA review, which was conducted in summer 2007. The group was comprised of about 25 cattle industry members. “I also want to thank TAHC and USDA staff for their long days of testing cattle, consulting with producers, keeping detailed test records, and handling tense situations when herds had to be quarantined. The efforts by the industry, the TAHC and USDA have brought us to a great place---disease eradication.”

“Now we must ensure that the disease is not reintroduced, or if it is lingering undetected, we must find the infection and eradicate it quickly. If two infected herds are detected within the next two years, we could lose this hard-earned, well-deserved status, so we must do everything to protect the health of our herds,” said Dr. Hillman.

“To this end, we must continue testing our cattle at the first-point of concentration and change of ownership for the next couple of years,” said Dr. Hillman. “This procedure is part of the national brucellosis program standard and was included in the program as a means of assuring that states that have just acquired free-status could identify infected herds should the disease have been left undetected in a herd or is re-introduced into a state. Additionally, brucellosis slaughter surveillance will continue for many years to come to assure that the disease is completely eradicated from cattle herds in Texas and other states of the United States.”

“Decades of hard work are now paying off with this incredible accomplishment. I commend the cattle industry of the state and the Texas Animal Health Commission for working together to establish Texas as cattle brucellosis-free,” Texas Agriculture Commissioner Todd Staples said.

“Texas ranks first in the nation in the number of cattle and calves and the industry is a $16 billion business for the Texas economy. This new status will positively improve the industry and help our dedicated cattle producers,” Commissioner Staples said.

“Hearing the words ‘cattle brucellosis-free’ is music to the industry’s ears,” said Mr. Ernie Morales, Chairman of the Texas Animal Health Commission (TAHC). “While in the short term we will have to continue testing our cattle, there is a tremendous benefit for cattle producers to be able to market their cattle as cattle from a Brucellosis-free state. This status designation will provide cattle producers and trading partners additional assurance that Texas cattle do not pose a disease risk.”

“This tremendous achievement could not have been accomplished without the combined efforts of state and federal agencies and industry,” said Bruce Knight, Under Secretary for USDA’s marketing and regulatory programs mission area. The interim rule declaring Texas as brucellosis free was published in the Feb. 1 Federal Register and became effective upon publication.

“We must now focus our efforts on eradicating brucellosis from the free-ranging elk and bison populations in the Greater Yellowstone Area in order to protect our national cattle herd against future outbreaks of this disease,” said Under Secretary Knight. He said the presence of brucellosis in free-ranging bison and elk in Yellowstone National Park and Grand Teton National Park still threatens cattle health in surrounding states.

Further Reading

       - Find out more information on Brucellosis by clicking here.

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