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USDA rules 129 cows to be killed

Almost four weeks since the first confirmed case of bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) was traced back to a Mabton dairy, USDA officials have announced they will be killing 129 cows from Sunny Dene Ranch owned by the Wavrin family.

Dr. Ron DeHaven, Chief Veterinarian for the USDA, said a decision has been made to destroy 129 of the 4,000 milk cows on the dairy.

"Some of them were herd mates to the BSE infected animal back in Alberta," said DeHaven.

The animals will be taken to the same slaughter facility the more than 400 bull calves were killed at last week.

Each of the cows will be tested for BSE, but none of them will enter the human or animal food chain, whether or not the test results are positive. Cows with negative test results will be disposed of at a landfill, according to DeHaven. He did not say what would happen to animals that tested positive for the brain-wasting disease.

DeHaven added that there is still a possibility that additional cows at the Mabton dairy will be destroyed, as well as cows at the Mattawa facility and other dairies where potentially infected cows can be traced to. DeHaven said there is information to indicate that seven of the animals imported into the United States at the same time as the infected cow were sent to another dairy in Washington.

The USDA came to the conclusion that 129 cows would have to be destroyed after narrowing the potential risk population to 258 cows. Of the 258 cows, 110 were culled from the herd and officials are still trying to track down where they were sent. For 19 of the cows, there is no paperwork indicating the cows are on or off the dairy. Investigators are still tracking down more information on the animals with no paperwork. The remaining 129 cows are to be killed. DeHaven said they were able to eliminate the majority of the herd because the animals were either born on the dairy or purchased at a time other than when the infected cow was bought.

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

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