January 2, 2004

 

9 Of BSE Cow's 81 Herdmates Located

 

Nine of the original herdmates of the cow that tested positive in the U.S. for bovine spongiform encephalopathy, or mad-cow disease, are believed to have been found and quarantined in the state of Washington, a U.S. Department of Agriculture official said Wednesday.

 

There are 81 herdmates of the Holstein cow that USDA believes originated on a farm in Canada.

 

USDA Chief Veterinarian Ron DeHaven said Wednesday that the agency still has to confirm that the nine animals are the right age to have been raised with the cow that tested positive for BSE and that all 10 "were fed the same feed."

 

Feed contaminated with BSE-infected ruminant material is believed to be the method by which the disease is spread from animal to animal. That is why the U.S. banned the practice of mixing ruminant parts into cattle feed in 1997.

 

Animals must be killed before their brains can be tested for BSE, so DeHaven said USDA wants to be certain that it has the right cattle before testing begins.

 

Nevertheless, he stressed: "We will err on the side of caution when making that determination."

 

And USDA has time to make the decision about whether to test because the nine animals are secure, DeHaven said.

 

"The important thing is that they're not going anywhere," he said. "They're under quarantine."

 

As to the remaining original herdmates of the BSE-infected cow, DeHaven said USDA has "good leads on all of the remaining animals."

 

USDA Secretary Ann Veneman first announced confirmation that a single Holstein cow was BSE-positive in the U.S. on Dec. 23, but she steadfastly has maintained that the U.S. food supply is safe.

 

Tuesday, she said U.S. "consumer confidence and demand for beef are still relatively strong."