By Casey Peacock: PNT staff writer
State and federal livestock officials said it will be at least two to three years before a federally imposed tuberculosis zone in eastern New Mexico is removed.
In order for that to happen, beef cattle and dairy producers will have to continue to meet the federal guideline of testing their animals before they are shipped out of the imposed TB zone and the area will have to go without a positive TB test for about two years, officials said.
The last cattle to test positive in the zone — which encompasses all of Roosevelt County and a small part of Curry County — was two years ago, according to state veterinarian Dave Fly.
Restrictions were placed on the interstate movement of cattle in 2003 after finding infected cattle at two Roosevelt County dairies. The “TB zone” was reduced two years later to its current status.
Area producers voiced their concerns Thursday during an informational meeting with officials from the New Mexico Livestock Board, U.S. Department of Agriculture and Veterinary Services. They ranged from the cost of testing to the source of the potentially deadly contagious disease to how much longer the restrictions would be in place.
Fly said the number one cause of TB in this country is imported Mexican cattle.
Several thousand head of imported cattle cross into the United States on a daily basis. An estimated 5,000 head are currently in Roosevelt and Curry counties. Imported cattle from Mexico are required to be tested before entering the U.S., Fly said.
Producer Arkie Kiehne wondered why the cattle were not tested again after entering into the U.S. if officials believe they are causing the infection.
“I don’t want to stop them from coming in, but they need to be tested,” Kiehne said.
Rates of TB found in imported cattle have dropped over the years, according to veterinary epidemiologist Terry Beals. Improvements have been made to curb the spread of TB.
In 1993, there was an estimated 600 confirmed cases of TB that came out of Mexico. Today that number has fallen to around 40, he said.
“There’s been a great deal of progress made,” Beals said.