California veterinary officials are asking the U.S. Department of Agriculture to waive a requirement that would lead to the slaughter of 5,000 dairy cattle so the state could be declared free of bovine TB.

A state that is not declared TB-free requires costly testing for cattle leaving the state.

More than 36,000 cows have tested negative for the disease after an infected slaughtered cow was traced to a farm southwest of Tulare in late May. Nearly 90 cows on that dairy have since tested positive for the infection and have been destroyed.

Another 189 cows of 200 that had been sold by the dairy were traced, tested and destroyed even though none had shown signs of the infection. The California Department of Food and Agriculture has made more than $750,000 in indemnity payments to dairymen who lost cows.

The dairyman with the infected herd also voluntarily destroyed 439 older cows from his herd, said Dr. Dorothy York, a state veterinarian and bovine TB expert.

Because of quick action and a lack of any cows outside the infected herd testing positive, state veterinarian Dr. Richard Breitmeyer said he would like to see the U.S. Department of Agriculture declare that California is still a TB-free state.

Bovine TB is a serious lung disease. It can be passed on to humans, most commonly by drinking raw milk. Milk sold in the store is pasteurized, which is a process of cooking the milk that kills bacteria.

Tulare Advance-Register