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Investigators Trace Diseased Cow to Canada
1 hour, 22 minutes ago

By EMILY GERSEMA, Associated Press Writer

WASHINGTON - The Holstein infected with mad cow disease in Washington state was imported into the United States from Canada about two years ago, federal investigators tentatively concluded Saturday.

Dr. Ron DeHaven, chief veterinarian for the Agriculture Department, said Canadian officials have provided records that indicate the animal was one of a herd of 74 cattle shipped from Alberta, Canada, into this country in August 2001 at Eastport, Idaho.

"These animals were all dairy cattle and entered the U.S. only about two or two-and-a-half years ago, so most of them are still likely alive," DeHaven said.

DeHaven emphasized that the sick cow's presence in that herd does not mean all 74 animals are infected. Investigators are tracking down where the other 73 animals are.

"We feel confident that we are going to be able to determine the whereabouts of most, if not all, of these animals within several days," DeHaven said.

Confirming that the sick cow came from Canada will be crucial for the United States to continue exporting beef because it could retain its disease-free status. The country has lost 90 percent of its exports because of the case, the National Cattlemen's Beef Association (news - web sites) estimates, because more than two dozen foreign nations have banned the import of U.S. beef despite claims by U.S. officials that the meat is safe.

Canada found a case of mad cow disease in Alberta in May. The discovery decimated the country's beef industry as its importers cut off trade.

Dr. Brian Evans, chief veterinary officer of the Canadian Food Inspection Agency, said it's premature to draw any conclusions about the cow's origins because Canadian and U.S. records that ostensibly refer to the same cow don't agree on key details.

Based on the Canadian records, the diseased cow was 6 1/2-years-old — older than U.S. officials had thought, DeHaven said. U.S. papers on the cow said she was 4- or 4 1/2-years-old.

The age is significant because the United States and Canada have banned feed that could be the source of infection since 1997.

Farmers used to feed their animals meal containing tissue from other cattle and livestock to fatten them. Countries have banned such feed because infected tissue — such as the brain and spinal cord — could be in the meal.

Mad cow disease, formally known as bovine spongiform encephalopathy, is a public health concern because it is related to a human disease, variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob. In Britain, 143 people died of the human illness after an outbreak of mad cow in the 1980s. People can get it if they eat meat containing tissue from the brain and spine of an infected cow.

The Agriculture Department insists the meat supply is safe because parts that carry the disease — the brain, spinal cord, and lower part of the intestine — were removed before the meat was processed. But as a precaution, the government has recalled an estimated 10,000 pounds of meat cut from the infected cow and from 19 other cows all slaughtered Dec. 9 at Vern's Moses Lake Meat Co., in Moses Lake, Wash.

Ken Peterson, of the department's Food Safety and Inspection Service, "it's too early to know how much of the product has been brought back, though we know that some of the product is beginning to be at least held at the retail facilities."

Officials say the slaughtered cow was deboned at Midway Meats in Centralia, Ore., and the meat was sent to two other plants in the region, identified as Willamette and Interstate Meat, both near Portland, Ore.

The animal most likely became sick from eating contaminated feed, so the Food and Drug Administration (news - web sites) is tracking down what it ate. That's a difficult task because the cow may have gotten the disease years ago, long before it showed signs that it was sick. The disease has an incubation period of four or five years.

Dr. Stephen Sundlof, head of the FDA's Center for Veterinary Medicine, said the agency also is trying to account for all of the products made from the cow. This includes items like soap and soil.

Gregg Doud, an economist for the National Cattlemen's Beef Association, said Friday that the United States stands to lose at least $6 billion a year in exports and falling domestic prices.

Egypt and Kuwait are among two dozen buyers blocking American beef.

A U.S. delegation was to leave Saturday for Japan, which takes about one-third of all U.S. beef exports, and possibly other Asian countries that imposed bans on American beef and livestock this week. The Treasury Department (news - web sites) said it is monitoring developments.

Federal officials on Friday quarantined a herd of 400 bull calves, one of which is an offspring of the sick cow.

One calf is still at the dairy near Mabton, Wash., that was the final home of the diseased Holstein cow. That herd was quarantined earlier. Another calf is at a bull calf feeding operation in Sunnyside, Wash., and a third died shortly after being born in 2001, DeHaven.

It is considered possible but unlikely that the infected cow passed the disease onto its calves.

86 Posts
At this point it's almost certain the cow came from Canada. The incubation period of the disease is the first indicator US officials guessed the animals age wrong. They knew this might be so from the start. The fact Canada lists it as a 6.5 year old animal is not an indicator this is a different cow, it's confirmation we screwed up on the age.

Personally, though, I hope all the sheeple stop buying beef. What a great time for any rational individual to fill up a freezer or three.

1,080 Posts
At this point it's almost certain the cow came from Canada.
Not so fast.

Based on the Canadian records, the cow was 6-and-a-half years old -- older than U.S. officials had thought, DeHaven said. U.S. papers on the cow said she was 4 or 4-and-half-years-old.

Now this I find nauseating.

Rocky Mountain News
Moreover, the Washington cow was a "downer," among the 130,000 to 195,000 animals too injured or sick to stand or walk unassisted that are brought to slaughterhouses every year. Some larger meat processors don't slaughter downers precisely out of concern they may have the disease, but many other federally inspected facilities do, such as the Washington plant that processed the infected Holstein. Congress should revisit a proposed ban on the practice that passed in the Senate but failed in the House earlier this year.,1299,DRMN_38_2533989,00.html

WOW... I am REALLY, REALLY surprised, that the US is blaming someone else for their problems once again... what a revelation... idiots.

6,843 Posts
Last I saw the source was still unconfirmed. U.S. officials think it was one of 74 dairy cows imported from Alberta, Canada to Idaho. However, no absolute link.

On cattle aging. Cattle are not born with a full set of teeth. For the first 5-6 years they get one additional tooth on both sides. Someone looks in the mouth, makes a quick count of the number of teeth and then declares an age. Extremely imprecise as it depends on a individual opinions from a quick look. I've bought cows as a heifers and then taken them back six months later with a calf only to find they aged several years. Guys at the stockyard often deal in cattle on the side. If it is one of yours coming through they might have a tendency to underage it as the price is normally higher.

When a cow reaches about six years of age it is known locally as a full-mouth. As the teeth start to wear down from use, she becomes a full/slash, meaning she still has good teeth, but they are starting to show noticeble wear. When they have worn down to stumps, she is a pegger. When they are down to the gums, she is a gummer. One guy's full/slash may be another's pegger. How quickly this happens depends a lot on how they were fed. Cattle grazing forages with a lot of dirt/sand on them will wear the teeth down quicker. A dairy cow eating only processed feed will have good teeth longer.

I have a Holstein in my beef herd which I am pretty sure is 17-18 years old. She is still a pegger.

Does anyone know what is the record for a cow's age?

I rather suspect naturally occurring mad cow disease has been around for a long time. The old dairy 'staggers'. It is the jump of the TSE to humans which appears to be new. Rather why I suspect some external trigger in humans with a high susceptibility.

Ken S. in WC TN

2,498 Posts
Here's a link that tells more than you ever really wanted to know about cow's teeth.

It is far from an exact science. Here, they generally just say a cow is broken, which means broken mouthed, or missing some teeth. If they don't say broken, they have a full set, but that doesn't mean they are in good shape.

We have one 17 year old simmental and a couple others that are from 10-15 years. Still having calves every year. Grandma...the 17 year old is getting special treatment for the first time this winter. My husband could not bring himself to sell her as a cull, so she gets a cushy pasture with less mud, a shed, and extra feed.

I haven't looked at her teeth, but I would suspect that they are pretty much all there yet. Once they start losing teeth, they generally start losing condition or having a hard time keeping it on.

I think our government had better be right about the Canada link to the cow. If they jumped the gun on this one, I think they have been highly irresponsible. Canada has suffered enough. I don't think the age of the cow on a piece of paper is significant, but Canada is asking for DNA testing which should settle things soon enough.

If this cow is from Canada, I surely hope that the US still takes this as a huge wake-up call and goes ahead with stricter guidelines and regulations. If we dodge the bullet this time, the next time we may not. We used to trade millions of cattle with Canada each year. If they have it, I think we have it somewhere too, in our own herds.

At least Canada has National ID, something which I think we really need to quit playing with and mandate NOW.


1,080 Posts
DeHaven said Sunday that DNA tests were being arranged to help resolve the matter.
Canadian papers show the cow had two calves before it was exported to the United States, contrary to U.S. documents which classified the animal as a heifer when it arrived, meaning it had never born calves.
Also, according to Canadian documents, the diseased cow was 6 1/2-years-old older than U.S. officials had thought. U.S. records say the cow was 4- or 4 1/2-years-old.
For more…

The Edmonton Journal
Canadian investigators are poring over records from the Edmonton-area farm, which closed in the summer of 2001 after its owner sold off all his cattle, some of which went south of the border.
A Holstein cow that the owner exported is believed to be the one that tested positive for mad cow disease last week in Washington state, said U.S. chief veterinarian Ron DeHaven.
"What we have is a match to an ear tag that was recovered from the animal at slaughter and records in Canada with that same ear-tag number," he told in a Saturday morning news conference.
The Holstein cow from the Edmonton area and 73 others crossed into the United States in August 2001 over the British Columbia-Idaho border.
The cattle were moved initially to a finishing operation located in Mattawa, Wash.
There, the cow was bought in October 2001 by owners of another farm in Mabton, Wash., DeHaven said.
The cow was paralysed when it was slaughtered for hamburger meat on Dec. 9 of this year.
Two weeks later, it tested positive for the brain-wasting disease.

The animal's ear had an export tag. In less than a day, investigators used that to trace it to the Idaho border crossing, then to the cow's dealer and finally to the Alberta owner, said Dr. Brian Evans, Canada's chief veterinarian. He noted, however, that those plastic ear tags can fall off and can be reapplied or tampered with.
There are also questions surrounding the sick cow's age. The Washington state farmer's records said the cow was four to 41/2 years old, while Canadian data said the cow from the Edmonton-area farm was 61/2 years old. The USDA is currently using the latter figure.
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