Bovine TB Confirmed in Saginaw County Dairy Herd; What’s it Mean for Deer?

10-mile surveillance testing to occur over next six months

The Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development (MDARD) announced nearly two weeks ago that the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) National Veterinary Services Laboratory in Ames, Iowa has confirmed bovine Tuberculosis (TB) in the lymph nodes of a Saginaw County dairy cow identified during slaughter surveillance. Last week, MDARD officials also stated that laboratory results from herd-mates of the Saginaw County dairy cow are also positive for TB.

The strain of bovine TB is unique to Michigan deer and cattle, so it is unlikely from an out-of-state source.

Bovine TB affects all mammals with cattle being especially sensitive. In 1994, a bovine TB positive white-tailed deer was harvested by a hunter in Alpena County.  In 1998, USDA, MSU, the Michigan Department of Community Health, MDARD, and the Michigan Department of Natural Resources (DNR) created an interagency project to address eradicating bovine TB by surveillance testing 1.3 million domestic animals, testing hunter harvested deer, establishing cattle and bison testing zones, assisting with disease risk mitigation practices, depopulating some beef and dairy cattle farms, and removing test positive animals from herds on other farms.

In 2000, the entire state of Michigan lost TB Free status and Michigan has methodically taken steps to block transmission of the disease which is now only endemic in a small four-county area of Northeastern Lower Michigan.  The Modified Accredited Zone (MAZ), where the disease still occurs, is Alcona, Alpena, Montmorency, and Oscoda counties.  The Saginaw County border is approximately 115 miles and has three counties between it and the MAZ.

As part of its bovine TB response plan, MDARD quarantined this farm and conducted a whole-herd test.  Since the herd is confirmed positive, MDARD will be testing in a10-mile surveillance circle around the farm to determine if there are any other bovine TB exposures.

Additionally, the DNR will be testing deer in the area for bovine TB. “Since testing began, in Saginaw County, the DNR has tested 1,092 deer and none have been TB positive,” said Dr. Steve Schmitt, State Wildlife Veterinarian.  “Statewide, the DNR has tested 199,660 deer and 726 have  been positive for bovine TB.”

DNR will test at least 300 deer per year from a 10 mile radius circle around the TB positive cattle herd in Saginaw County and another 600 among the surrounding  counties for 3 years.  Samples from road kills, crop damage permits, disease control permits (which are issued to cattle producers within the 10 mi radius) and hunter harvested deer will be used.  The 300 goal for 3 years was agreed to in a Memorandum of Understanding between the agencies. USDA-Wildlife Services will collect deer and feral pigs as soon as possible from the positive farm and other interested farms within two miles for TB testing.

At this time, there are no plans to ban baiting and feeding for white-tailed deer in the affected area or increase the number of antlerless deer permits available to hunters.

Two informational meetings for Saginaw County beef and dairy cattle producers are scheduled on Monday, April 8, 2013 at 2:00 p.m., and 7:00 p.m. at Jonesfield Township Hall, 217 North Eddy Street, Merrill, Michigan 48637.

For more information visit:  www.michigan.gov/emergingdiseases

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  • Bruce Welnetz

    How much is this costing and what is the source of funding?

    • Amy Trotter

      Most of the cost of routine Tb testing cattle is borne by the livestock producers, depopulation and indemnification can be either Federal or Michigan general funds. The deer testing generally comes from Michigan General Fund, although there may be some Game and Fish Fund (hunting licenses) used for check stations where deer are accepted and to pay for biologists time in issuing special permits.