Bovine tuberculosis restrictions lifted

Robin Fornoff

Bovine tuberculosis restrictions lifted on the New Mexico beef and dairy industries Tuesday could mean an economic bonus for the state and a collective sigh of relief for producers in Curry and Roosevelt counties.

“It’s very good news,” said Walter Bradley of Clovis, a former lieutenant governor and now spokesman for Dairy Farmers of America.

Bradley explained the restrictions limited transportation of cattle across state lines — a huge impediment to several large dairy calf farm operations in Curry and Roosevelt counties. And, Bradley said, the restrictions subjected dairy and beef cattle producers to a series of costly and lengthy tests.

“It’s expensive and a pain,” said Charlie Rogers, owner and general manager of Clovis Livestock Auction.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s decision Tuesday to lift all restrictions is particularly significant for eastern New Mexico.

All of the state was placed under mandatory movement restrictions and testing requirements in 2008, after isolated cases of bovine TB were found in Curry and Roosevelt counties. Two years ago, those restrictions were lifted for all counties except Curry and Roosevelt.

“This has been a long road to get these restrictions lifted,” said State Veterinarian Dave Fry. “It’s a major economic issue with the producers in… (Curry and Roosevelt) counties. It’s cost them a lot of money.”

Fry said New Mexico was one of just four states under restriction. He said California and portions of Minnesota and Michigan remain under USDA restrictions because of bovine TB.

Fry said lifting the restrictions came only after 24 consecutive months of tests showed New Mexico free of the disease. Fry said testing included monitoring wildlife such as deer, which can and have contracted the disease in other states such as Michigan.

“We have no evidence that it’s in wildlife in New Mexico,” Fry said.

A USDA spokesperson said state livestock inspectors have conducted more than 200,000 bovine TB tests since the restrictions were imposed. There are an estimated 330,000 dairy cows and approximately 1.5 million head of cattle in the state.

“I hope we’re through with it for good,” said Rogers, who noted the move is good economic news for many farmers and ranchers already reeling from drought.

Rogers said sales numbers at Clovis Livestock Auction have been up significantly for months because the drought has increased feed costs for ranchers left without any or limited grazing land.

“We’re seeing herd reductions and some herd dispersals,” said Rogers.