Texans in all types of cattle-related enterprises — beef, dairy and seed stock — have reason to celebrate this week as the U.S. Department of Agriculture declared the state has regained cattle tuberculosis-free (TB) status. After losing the valuable status in 2002 due to the detection of two cattle TB infected herds, ranchers, private veterinary practitioners and state and federal animal health personnel have worked together on a plan to bring the state back to the cattle TB-free designation.

The Texas Animal Health Commission says since September 2003, more than 335,000 cows in Texas’ 818 dairies, and nearly 129,000 beef cattle in 2,014 of the state’s seed stock or purebred herds, have been tested for cattle TB in a bid to ensure that all TB infection had been detected and eliminated and that effective disease surveillance has been implemented.

“The biggest change cattle producers will notice immediately is that they won’t have to test cattle to move then in interstate commerce,” says Bob Hillman, DVM, executive director of TAHC.

Cattle owners involved in regional and statewide stock shows and fairs, should always check with show or fair officials, however, as they may establish more stringent requirements, Hillman adds.

USDA regulations also allow the about 150,000 breeding and dairy cattle moved from Texas to other states each year to be shipped without a TB test. Hillman cautioned ranchers and accredited veterinary practitioners to check with states of destination prior to shipping cattle, as it will take time for animal health officials to update regulations recognizing Texas’ TB-free status. Also, because states are at liberty to impose rules beyond USDA standards, he said some states will keep TB testing requirements “on the books.” Cattle moved interstate from TB-free states for feeding purposes have not been required to have a TB test.

Hillman says that while reinstatement of cattle TB-free status is cause for celebration, TAHC will remain vigilant to prevent the re-introduction of the infection into the state.

“The primary mechanism to watch for TB infections is slaughter surveillance, where inspectors examine carcasses for signs of infection and submit samples from suspect carcasses for laboratory confirmation,” Hillman says. “Also, because of the risk associated with cattle of Mexican origin, Mexican roping cattle have to be retested annually because they stay around so long.”

Hillman goes on to say that dairy producers who purchase replacement heifers should make certain the animals originate from reliable sources and have a negative TB test prior to purchase. If breeding animals originate from states not TB-free — Minnesota, and parts of New Mexico and Michigan — a test is required. Sexually intact dairy cattle from any state must be tested prior to entering Texas, unless they originate from a TB accredited-free herd Hillman applauds the efforts of everyone involved in the effort to clear Texas of cattle TB once again.

“Everyone who has played a role deserves hearty congratulations for their diligence to ensure that Texas is again free of this dangerous disease that has been a concern to the livestock industry for nearly a century.”