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BOAH wants more testing

By Jon Estridge, Editor

There will be more cattle testing on Franklin County farms due to the Bovine TB situation.

Indiana State Veterinarian Dr. Bret D. Marsh, who is with the Board of Animal Health (BOAH), explained the history of the situation, what had happened in the last year and what was planned for this summer to a small crowd Monday evening, June 12, at the Lew Wallace Auditorium at Franklin County High School.

The new testing will be within the three-mile circles around the farms where cattle a whitetail deer and a raccoon tested positive for Bovine TB in 2016.

Cattle 2 years of age and older will be tested this summer.

According to Marsh, 70 herds will be tested in the designated areas.

All of the property owners in the affected area have been notified, he said.


Bovine TB problems in Franklin County began in 2008 with one beef cow at a packing facility in Pennsylvania being found positive for Bovine TB.

Inspectors at the facility found a lesion the size of the end of a thumb.

The owner, who is from the Laurel area, said she believed it was the cow with the bad eye, and the packing facility had told BOAH officials the cow had a bad eye.

BOAH officials tested fence line contacts and the herd in question but did not find anymore positives.

In July 2009, a cervid farm just down the road from the first farm was found to be positive for Bovine TB. That herd was depopulated.

“I thought we were done,” Marsh said.

However, it was just beginning. The next year, 2010, two more positive beef cows were found at a slaughterhouse in Pennsylvania. However, those cattle could not be traced to a specific farm.

Marsh said when another positive Bovine TB case was found in 2011 in northern Dearborn County, the 2010 cattle and 2011 cattle were genetically linked.

“Since we started this process in 2008, the USDA (United States Department of Agriculture) set up a process called whole genome sequencing,” Marsh said.

This allows them to see which cases are related.

He said all of these instances in Franklin and Dearborn counties, including the 2008 case, are related to the 2009 cervid farm.

The 2011 Dearborn County herd was depopulated.

After that the Department of Natural Resources and BOAH were checking whitetail deer harvested during hunting season in both Franklin and northern Dearborn counties.

This process was complicated by the state going to an online check-in for deer hunters, Marsh said.

Then in April 2016, the largest amount was found. It started with one herd, which was placed on two different properties: one being on Duck Creek Road and the other on U.S. 52 west of Metamora.

The steers had been shipped to a Pennsylvania slaughterhouse.

The herd on both farms was depopulated in June 2016, and all the wildlife on the two farms were killed and tested. That is when they found a positive for Bovine TB in a 2-year-old doe and a raccoon on the property off U.S. 52.

Marsh said there were no obvious lesions on the deer. DNR employees were not as concerned about the raccoon as a raccoon does not move as far as a deer.

The positive in wildlife, caused BOAH to increase its testing to a 10-mile circle around the two newest sites.

They also included a two-mile buffer around the Whitewater River corridor. All the sites for positive Bovine TB are geographically close, except for the northern Dearborn County site. They believe the connector between that site and the other sites is the Whitewater River corridor.

In all, this involved parts of six different counties: Franklin, Union, Fayette, Rush, Decatur and Dearborn.

During 2016 and early 2017, BOAH tested 380 herds and 6,500 head.

Word of the testing was disseminated by public meetings, door-to-door visits, telephone calls, email, snail mail and through the media.

BOAH built corrals and brought in water tanks on some of the sites. Equipment was stored at the Franklin County Fairgrounds.

Some Department of Correction, low-level inmates, were brought in to help put up and take down corrals on the different farms, Marsh said.

“The response from the community has been wonderful,” Marsh said.

Area veterinarians helped with the testing.

There were four types of testing done with the cattle.

First was the caudal fold test. This was a skin injection and 72 hours were needed before the test could be read. This meant farmers had to have water and corrals on the testing sites.

If there was a positive off that test, then the other tests were done. This included: comparative cervical test, a confirmatory blood test and a culture which needed eight weeks to grow in a lab.

Since the start of testing the USDA has suspended doing the blood tests.

In December 2016, one herd that was tested in the Laurel area was positive for Bovine TB. One that came off the farm and was in Michigan tested positive there, Marsh said.

He said they are still working with about 50 head of cattle on the newest site, which is designated as Site C.

Along with that, there was extensive testing of the harvested whitetail deer in southern Fayette County, Franklin County and northern Dearborn County. It amounted to more than 2,000 deer.

There were no more positives found through the whitetail testing. Thus, they are going to go to the designated herds and do a second round of testing.

DNR plans to announce a testing plan for deer before the 2017 deer season, according to Dr. Joe Caudell, state deer biologist.

Also, it was announced at the meeting the way the bovine tests will be funded was changed by the state legislature. State Sen. Jean Leising (R-OLDENBURG), was instrumental in getting legislation passed which took the onus for funding off the counties. To that point, the county had to fund all the testing costs.

Now, it will be split 50-50 between the county and BOAH. Also, BOAH will refund the county for the cost of the testing in 2016 and early 2017. In all, the testing cost around $60,000, Marsh said.