State holds meeting about bovine TB herd

CURRAN – Michigan’s tuberculosis eradication program coordinator met with cattle farmers and others at Mitchell Township Hall in Curran to talk about the recent discovery of a TB-positive cattle herd in Alcona County.

Rick Smith, Michigan Department of Agriculture TB eradication program coordinator, told an audience of slightly more than a dozen people that two cows suspected to be TB-positive were discovered during routine annual testing of an Alcona County cattle herd in February. After dissecting both cows, one was found to have a lesion in a lymph node in its throat. DNA tests confirmed it was bovine TB.

The infected herd, the 57th discovered since 1998, has since been depopulated, Smith said. The United States Department of Agriculture reached this decision after consulting with the farmer, who was compensated for the cows. The farm is in what’s known as a modified accredited zone, so no additional testing of nearby farms is required.

Wildlife biologists are now checking animals they caught on the farm for TB, Smith said, adding it’s uncertain whether small mammals contribute to spreading the disease. The bacteria is slow-growing, and can sit dormant in an animal for years, so it’s extremely difficult to research just how it’s spread.

Smith said he was dismayed to find out that no one in the audience had received a letter he sent a week ago informing them of the meeting. Several audience members told him it was typical to have such delays when receiving mail.

Smith also talked about three herds in the Saginaw area that were found to have TB-positive cattle. The disease hasn’t been found in the area for many decades. The Department of Natural Resources will be testing deer in the area for three years, and all cattle farms within 10 miles of those found to have infected cattle will be tested.

A few members of the audience had questions for Smith and David Minier, a veterinarian with the MDA. Some of them centered on how the disease is spread, while one audience member said she wanted more information from the MDA.

Jordan Travis can be reached via email at or by phone at 358-5688. Follow Jordan on Twitter @jt_alpenanews. Read his blog, A Snowball’s Chance, at