What is bovine tuberculosis?
Some Alberta cattle producers are still learning the fate of their herds after a cow from Alberta was found with bovine tuberculosis. It was discovered back in September, after the cow was shipped to a plant in the United States.
The animal came from the Jenner area – about 250 kilometres east of Calgary – where about 30 cattle operations have been put under quarantine.
Bob Lowe, the chairman of the Alberta Beef Producers, said there has only been one confirmed case, which was the cow shipped to the U.S.
Lowe added the original herd, known as the index herd, consisted of about 350 cows, 60 bulls and this year’s calf crop.
He said the Canadian Food Inspection Agency has ordered all those animals, plus additional animals, be destroyed.
“What happened on Saturday was another herd that has been quarantined, CFIA has told him his herd will be destroyed just like the index herd.”
Lowe also said any producers who have to euthanize animals will be compensated.
“The big problem is these people that are under quarantine, but they can’t move their calves. The extra feed, that sort of stuff is not compensated for. We are 25 cents less on the market than when a lot of these calves were sold. They can’t sell their calves and they’ve got no money to buy feed. That’s the biggest stressor right there.”
Lowe said he is confident this is not a trade issue nor a major concern for the industry as a whole, but it is devastating to those producers directly connected.
Bovine tuberculosis is a chronic contagious bacterial disease.
According to Dr. Ryan Moore with Ranch Docs, the disease is rare in Canada and he personally has never seen a positive bovine tuberculosis case.
“It has the potential to transmit from wildlife to cattle to humans, so that is where our concern comes from.
“The bacteria causes infections that can be devastating and kill the animal rapidly or it can just smoulder or remain dormant for long periods of time. It is very difficult to detect.”
Moore said the only way to get rid of bovine tuberculosis in cattle is to euthanize them. He also added symptoms can vary, with animals showing no signs at all to much more obvious ones.
“They can develop pulmonary lesions and have trouble breathing,” he said. “They can cough and have discharge from there nasal passages, be ill and have a fever and not eat.”
He also added other animals can contract the disease like horses, goats and dogs but it’s much less likely. It’s more common in wildlife like elk or deer.
The disease is spread through nose-to-nose contact when respiratory droplets are inhaled.
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