Mad cow update: Tracking cattle slows USDA

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WASHINGTON – USDA officials are having a tough time tracking down the group of 81 cattle that entered the United States with the Washington state cow infected with mad cow disease.

Only 23 located. As of Jan. 19, only 23 of the 81 cows that came from Canada with the infected cow have been located.

Three animals at a farm in Tenino, Wash., are the most recent cattle identified from the group.

Earlier last week, USDA had tracked another animal from the herd that came into the United States with the infected cow. It is on a dairy in Quincy, Wash., where officials also believe another seven animals may have been sent.

This farm has been placed under a state hold, or quarantine.

Still looking. Officials are still tracing the remaining cows from the original 81 cows that entered the United States with the index cow. In addition to the cow or cows in the Quincy, Wash., herd, nine cows from that group were on the original farm.

Three are under a hold order at a farm in Mattawa, Wash. The USDA started a depopulating selected cattle from that herd Jan. 17.

Five additional animals from the 81 were located on a farm in Connell, Wash. A hold has also been placed on that operation.

Index herd tests. USDA officials euthanized and tested 129 animals from the farm where mad cow disease was discovered in Washington state.

Of the samples that have completed testing, all results were negative for bovine spongiform encephalopathy, or BSE.

Heifers tracked, too. Other group of 17 heifers from the Canadian source herd is also being tracked. Three were found at the same Quincy, Wash., dairy where one of the 18 was located.

USDA investigators are still determining whether the remaining 14 animals entered the United States.

Although no answer has been found as to the source of the infection, officials continue to suspect feed contaminated with tissue of an infected animal.

Trade talks. U.S. Agriculture Secretary Ann Veneman met with her counterparts from Canada and Mexico Jan. 16 in a first-ever meeting of the three.

The ag officials hoped to find a way to resume North American trade in beef.

The Mexican border has been open for Canadian beef since Oct. 31.

Mexican blockade. Mexico’s Javier Usabiaga, secretary of agriculture, said the Mexican border will be open to U.S. beef “as soon as the United States implements the measures that they have offered to do.”

Although Veneman said the United States has implemented all of the actions it said it would implement, Usabiaga said the United States still must meet commitments held by international regulations.

“It’s critical that we have a consistent trade environment on this continent,” Veneman said after the meeting.

“It’s vital, given our integrated markets, that we work to harmonize our rules and processes regarding BSE.”

Agreements. The ministers agreed to work to make BSE regulations and safeguards equal in each country.

Their objective is to update World Organization for Animal Health guidelines and encourage countries adhere to the organization’s guidelines and applications for international trade in animal and animal products.

The officials also agreed to develop global incentives to further the control and eradication of mad cow disease.

Appeasing Japan. Veneman said later the United States has also been having “almost nonstop discussions” with the Japanese since the Washington mad cow discovery because “Japan is a very, very important market for our beef exports.”

A senior official is in Japan this week to continue work on reopening the Japanese market to U.S. beef.

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