|Officials Hold BSE Press Conference|
|Officials Hold BSE Press Conference|
It was determined that the cow was first examined by a local veterinarian in late February 2006. After the animal failed to respond to medical attention, it was humanely euthanized. The cattle producer buried the cow at the farm because Alabama Department of Agriculture & Industries (ADAI) regulations require burial of livestock within 24 hours. The producer did not suspect that the cow had BSE. The local veterinarian sent samples of the cow to the ADAI lab system, which was then forwarded to the USDA lab in Athens, GA as part of the routine voluntary surveillance program for BSE testing. After the rapid test for BSE gave an inconclusive result, the samples were sent to Ames, Iowa for a Western Blot test, which gave a positive result. A third test, the immunohisto-chemistry (IHC) test, was performed and also returned positive results for BSE.
Federal and state agriculture workers excavated the remains of the animal. The carcass was that of a red crossbred beef type cow and not a purebred Santa Gertrudis as previously reported. Had she been a registered animal, traceback would have been easier. An examination of the cow’s teeth confirmed that the animal was at least 10 years of age. Samples were taken of the animal and the remaining carcass was transported to one of the department’s diagnostic labs for proper disposal.
One calf was identified by the owner as belonging to the red cow. The calf is approximately 6 weeks old and appeared to be a healthy animal. The calf was transported to a USDA lab where DNA from the calf will be compared to that of the red cow to confirm relation. If confirmed, this would be the first offspring of a BSE diagnosed cow in the United States.
Since the investigation began, the ADAI and the USDA have followed multiple leads in the traceback process. At this time, 13 locations and 32 movements of cattle have been examined with 27 of those being substantially completed. Additional investigations of locations and herds will continue. In addition, state and federal officials have confirmed that a black bull calf was born in 2005 to the index animal (the red cow). The calf was taken by the owner to a local stockyard in July 2005 where it died. The calf was disposed of in a local landfill and did not enter the human or animal food chain.
Without a premises or animal ID program in place, the traceback process to find the herd of origin of the index cow is time-consuming and difficult. It includes conducting interviews, reviewing of records and documents, and testing of cattle DNA. State and federal officials have discovered several herds of interest and they are planning to use DNA testing to determine DNA linkage between the index cow and the herds. Through the DNA testing of these herds, investigators will attempt to find a genetic path that could lead to the herd of origin. Commissioner Sparks stressed that the DNA testing being conducted on the herds is for genetic markers and is not a test for the disease BSE.
Sparks stressed that, "It is the Alabama Department of Agriculture & Industries’ and the USDA’s policy not to disclose the location of the farm where the animal was located. We consider that information private. USDA does not release that kind of information for BSE or for any other disease program. The producer, and other producers around the country are helping us with our enhanced BSE surveillance program and protecting their privacy encourages them to do so. This producer did exactly what they should have been done under the system. We want that cooperation to continue and bringing unnecessary hardship and attention to them would not benefit the consumers or farmers. This program is working and there is no danger to the existing herd because this disease is not contagious."