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Sunnyside area herd to be killed

USDA opts to put down 450 calves as a mad cow disease precautionary measure

United States Department of Agriculture Chief Veterinarian Ron DeHaven announced this morning (Monday) that a decision has been made to kill the 450 bull calves at the Sunnyside bull calf operation that was quarantined Christmas Eve.

The bull calf operation has been under scrutiny since Christmas after it was found that one of the calves of the Holstein infected with bovine spongiform encephalopathy had been sent there.

The Holstein dairy cow, which was non-ambulatory at the time of slaughter, entered the beef market after sustaining injuries giving birth.

The infected Holstein cow was tested for BSE at a Moses Lake slaughter facility Dec. 9. The test for BSE, or mad cow disease, came back positive on Dec. 23. Immediately, the Mabton herd where the infected cow was from was quarantined.

The Sunnyside bull calf operation where the infected cow's calf was sent to shortly after birth was next quarantined.

The decision to depopulate the Sunnyside area herd stems from the USDA's inability to determine which calf was birthed by the Holstein diagnosed with mad cow disease. DeHaven said it is unlikely that the cow transmitted the disease to her calf, but the USDA made the decision out of precaution.

The calves will be transferred to a slaughter facility sometime this week, depending on the weather. The undisclosed location is currently not being used, said DeHaven. The calves will be humanely euthanized and blood will be taken in case of needed DNA testing.

None of the calves will be tested for BSE, because DeHaven said the calves will not test positive at this time, since the disease doesn't show up in animals until they are 30 months or older, he said.

He added that the calves will not enter the human food chain or be used in rendered products.

The calf carcasses will not be discarded in an alkaline digester or incineration process because DeHaven said there aren't any infectious materials due to the animal's ages. All of the calves are under a month old.

DeHaven said the owner of the Sunnyside area calf operation will be part of the indemnity program, which will pay the owner of the cows a price based on fair market value.

"Before the depopulation we will agree on the fair market value," said DeHaven.

As a part of the program the USDA actually purchases the calves.

DeHaven added that DNA test results by two private labs, one in Canada and one in the United States, should be available late this week to learn for sure if the cow already found to have BSE is indeed from Canada.

He added that the USDA is still seeking 70 of the cows believed to have entered the United States at the same time the BSE infected cow did.

Nine of the cows were found on the Mabton dairy where the BSE infected cow was at. One was found to be at a Mattawa dairy operation, which was quarantined late last week, and one is believed to still be in Canada.

. Melissa Browning can be contacted at (509) 837-4500, or e-mail mbrowning@eaglenewspapers.com

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