Nebraska seeks funds to cull herd

Jul 17, 2009
by DTN
Nebraska seeks funds to cull herd

Nebraska’s two U.S. senators and three representatives sent a letter to USDA requesting funds to compensate a Rock County, NE, rancher for culling his herd after several cattle in the herd contracted bovine tuberculosis (TB). A few animals have already been euthanized, but the rest of the herd’s fate depends on USDA’s response, said Michael Kelsey, executive vice president for Nebraska Cattlemen.

“It’s an extremely cautious approach,” Kelsey said. “Some diseases take longer to manifest. That would be a reason why you’d depopulate an entire herd—to be very, very cautious.”

Depopulation of the infected herd is the preferred solution, according to USDA’s Bovine Tuberculosis Eradication Uniform Methods and Rules. The alternative is a complete herd plan including rigorous and expensive disease testing. State law forbids Nebraska from paying indemnity funds for bovine TB, leaving USDA to pay the bill. Last year, USDA paid $921,920 to compensate Minnesota ranchers for the depopulation of four TB-positive herds, according to the congressmen’s letter.

The amounts paid in indemnities differ based on type and value of the livestock. The owner of the herd and USDA appraise the value of the cattle and negotiate a price per head, Kelsey said. If a rancher had 10 head worth $1,000 each, he’d receive $10,000 to depopulate his herd. Christin Kamm, a spokesperson for the Nebraska Department of Agriculture, said a farmer could be paid up to $3,000 per head of cattle under USDA’s rules. Neither Kamm nor Kelsey knows the size of the herd in question.

After the infected herd is culled, a producer must then clean and disinfect almost everything involved in his operation— structures, holding facilities, feed and water troughs, conveyances or anything else health officials consider a risk—before he can buy more cattle.

“There’s value in those cattle, and they want to help that rancher stay in business,” Kelsey said. “The purpose is not only indemnification and for the health of the industry, but certainly to aid that family rancher in maintaining his business.”

Depopulating the herd also is an important step in protecting Nebraska’s TB-free status, Kelsey said. If Nebraska were to lose that status, other states could impose strict regulations on interstate movement of Nebraska cattle.

Twenty-six herds remain quarantined in Nebraska, which means producers need special permission to move their herds and can’t sell their animals, and more than 7,800 animals have been tested, according to the Nebraska Department of Agriculture. No positive results have been found outside of the initial infected herd. Kamm said the USDA deadline to depopulate the infected herd is 90 days, but officials from USDA and the Nebraska Department of Agriculture have until Nov. 30 to complete the investigation. The investigation was launched on June 30. — DTN