LIVESTOCK AUCTION COW
David J. Phillip  /  AP
Texas is the leading cattle state in the nation with 13.8 million head or 15 percent of the total U.S. cattle inventory.
updated 7/1/2005 10:31:06 AM ET 2005-07-01T14:31:06

Animals in the Texas herd that produced the first homegrown case of mad cow disease will be surveyed in coming weeks to identify cattle born around the same time and the infected bovine’s recent offspring.

The checks come as agriculture officials work to ensure that other cattle in the herd are not carrying the brain-wasting disease.

The infected 12-year-old beef cow was born, raised and used for breeding at the same ranch and had never left the property, authorities said Thursday. They would not identify the ranch or the size of the herd.

Agriculture officials announced Wednesday the latest confirmed case of mad cow disease in the United States had been traced to the animal, which was a “downer” that could not walk. The cow arrived dead at a pet-food plant in Waco, Texas, in November and never entered the nation’s human food supply.

It was the first time the disease has been confirmed in a U.S.-born cow. The other U.S. case was in a dairy cow imported from Canada.

The state Animal Health Commission put a hold on the ranch’s cattle earlier this month when tests indicated a mad cow case among the herd.

Tracing feed history of ranch animals
Officials have said the infection most likely started with contaminated feed eaten before August 1997, when the United States and Canada began banning cow parts in cattle feed. The cow was born about four years before the feed ban was implemented.

Officials also are trying to identify herd mates born within one year of the infected cow’s birth, as well as any offspring born within the past two years and other related cattle.

USDA Chief Veterinarian John Clifford said it is “highly unusual” to find the disease in more than one animal in a herd or in an affected animal’s offspring.

The animal arrived dead at Champion Pet Food. An initial screening indicated the presence of mad cow, but more sophisticated follow-up tests were negative. However, samples were sent to a British lab that found the animal had the disease. The carcass was later incinerated.

Meanwhile, the Food and Drug Administration will trace the feed history of animals born on the ranch around the same time as the infected cow, including any animals no longer on the farm.

Investigators will also examine compliance records for plants that may have processed meat and bone meal from relatives or herd mates of the sick animal to see whether the companies complied with the feed ban regulations.

The Agriculture Department began monitoring cattle more aggressively after the first U.S. case of mad cow disease was discovered in December 2003 in Washington state. More than 400,000 cattle have been tested since June 2004.

Texas is the leading cattle state in the nation with 13.8 million head or 15 percent of the U.S. cattle inventory.

Mad cow disease, medically known as bovine spongiform encephalopathy, or BSE, is a brain-wasting illness that infects cattle. It is believed to be spread when a cow eats meal that contains spinal or brain tissue of an animal infected with BSE. Humans can get a related illness, variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease, if they eat infected tissue.

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