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House approves legislation to fight bovine TB

A plan to slaughter cattle herds, erect fences and collect money to fight bovine tuberculosis in northwest Minnesota passed the state House unanimously on Thursday.

The bill, introduced by Rep. Dave Olin, passed 131-0 after he warned about the effect the bovine TB status downgrade will have on the entire state's cattle industry.

Rep. Doug Magnus, R-Slayton, said the vote showed a willingness by both Republicans and Democrats to take quick action against bovine TB in the state.

Minnesota's bovine TB status was downgraded earlier this month because of the outbreak, creating expensive testing requirements for ranchers and farmers who haul breeding and feeder cattle out of the state.

The House bill would pay cattle owners $500 per head to slaughter their herds, plus annual payments until a zone in northwest Minnesota is declared free of bovine TB.

"We have to do two things -- we have to contain the outbreak to within the management zone ... and then eradicate it," Magnus said. He also said the state wants to get split-state status approval from the U.S. Department of Agriculture by Sept. 1, when this year's calf crop comes in off grass.

"We want to have them move freely around the state or out of the state," Magnus said.

Since the status downgrade took effect, Magnus said he's heard from numerous cattle and dairy producers from the area who are concerned about moving cattle. There is also quite a bit of confusion, especially when slaughter cattle, which are exempt from the TB testing, are hauled from the farm straight to the slaughter facility. Cattle that are deemed underweight for slaughter have been separated out, and the rules are unclear as to what happens with those animals.

"There's concern that they can't go to further feeding," Magnus said, adding it appears those underweight cattle would have to be slaughtered anyway.

"You could be losing money there," he said, referring to price docking done at processing plants. "It's a real nightmare we've got to get our hands around."

The bill that passed in the Minnesota House will now move to the Senate for consideration.

-- Worthington Daily Globe