Texas Animal Health Commission (TAHC) staff will conduct a bovine tuberculosis (TB) risk assessment in portions of El Paso and Hudspeth counties in the coming months. The assessment could pave the way to allow dairy cattle back in portions of the two-county area.

House Bill 1081, passed during the 83rd Texas Legislative Session, directed the TAHC to conduct a study to determine the current risk level for bovine TB in the area. Authored by state Reps. Mary González and Poncho Nevárez and sponsored by state Sen. José Rodríguez, the ultimate goal of the study is for the TAHC to reconsider the current prohibition of dairy cattle in parts of El Paso and Hudspeth counties. TAHC held two informational public meeting this week to provide key information regarding the disease, testing and the overall risk assessment process. A report is to be completed by Sept. 1, 2014.

The original prohibition on dairy cattle in the region was implemented in 2003 as a result of recurring and long-term TB infection in local dairies, and the loss of Texas’ TB-Free designation by USDA. Approximately 12,000 head of cattle in 10 dairies were located in the El Paso milk shed prior to the prohibition.

Tuberculosis testing of susceptible livestock will be an essential part of the risk assessment process. Testing of all cattle in the existing high risk area, along with representative sampling of small ruminants (goats/sheep), swine and selected wildlife is scheduled to begin Feb. 3. Dairy cattle near the high risk area will be tested as well.

El Paso and Hudspeth County livestock owners and/or veterinary practitioners and others who have questions can call the El Paso TB Study team at 915-478-0815, or the TAHC Region 6 Office at 512-556-6277. For more information on Tuberculosis, visit http://www.tahc.state.tx.us/animal_health/cattle_tb/cattle_tb.html.