California now has two herds with bovine tuberculosis. With that news also came the news from USDA and the California Department of Agriculture on Wednesday that California’s loss of TB-free status is "imminent." It’s simply a matter of how quickly USDA publishes its findings.

That has state ag officials developing a plan to protect the livestock industry from more TB and to work toward eradicating the disease and regaining their status as TB-free.

A big part of that plan is the development of new regulations regarding Mexican cattle. The state would restrict the movement of cattle from Mexico and only allow animals to graze in registered pastures — those not adjacent to any U.S. dairies or beef operations.

According to USDA veterinarian Paul Ugstad, most cases of bovine TB are usually traced back to Mexican beef cattle that either graze in the states or are finished in U.S. feedlots.

In addition, any dairy cow entering the state of California will be tested for the disease before entry will be granted. Although current regulations say that cattle in states with a TB-free status can move freely across state lines, individual states can place requirements on the entry of all animals and that is what California is doing, explains Dorothy York, state veterinarian and expert on bovine TB. Both changes, say York, were designed to protect California’s livestock industries.

Another component of the new regulations is that ag officials plan to test all 600 dairies in Tulare, Fresno and Kings counties for the disease. Testing will start with the herds located closest to the infected herds and continue from there. Because of the number of animals involved it could take up to five years to complete testing of all the herds.

California's new disease status will most likely be classified as "modified accredited advanced. " With that status every breeding-age cow or bull would have to be tested for TB before leaving the state. The cost of a test is about $8 per head. In addition, all feeder cattle would have to be officially identified by their farm of origin. In California, current brand requirements will fulfill the latter.

The second dairy found to have bovine TB has already approached the California Department of Food and Agriculture about having the herd destroyed. The reason, says York, is that a big portion of the dairy’s business is from the sale of heifers and springing heifers and since the dairy has been under quarantine since Oct. 31, it has pretty much killed the business. Without destroying the animals, the 2,000 head dairy would have to be quarantined for a minimum of three years and be free of TB during that time in order to be cleared of the disease. The dairy simply can’t survive that.

The dairy producer will receive market value for his animals when he is allowed to depopulate. Currently that is about $900 per head.

At this time, the CDFA does not know how the cows in Tulare County acquired the disease. However, officials do believe that Tulare County — the nation’s largest dairy county — is the spawning ground.

So far, California has tested more than 150,000 cows and killed nearly 8,000 animals since bovine TB was first discovered in the state last June.

Visalia Times-Delta, Modesto Bee