They May Not Even Have
The Right Cow!
By Dawn Walton and Patrick Brethour
The Globe and Mail

Calgary -- News that the Washington-state Holstein with mad-cow disease was almost certainly born at an Alberta dairy farm is likely to prolong the U.S. ban on imports of Canadian cattle.
Canada's chief veterinarian, however, warned yesterday that feed contaminated in the United States could have infected the animal.
Ron DeHaven, chief veterinarian for the U.S. Department of Agriculture, suggested yesterday that if investigators confirm the Holstein came from a dairy farm near Edmonton, Canada's hopes of moving live cattle and more beef products over the border by early next year could be damaged.
The United States is accepting public input until Jan. 5 on a new rule that could allow animals under 30 months of age into the country, further easing a U.S. ban on all beef products and live cattle from Canada that was put in place after BSE was confirmed in an Alberta cow in May.
"Clearly, we would have to take into account this new situation... as we review those comments and consider whether or not to publish a final rule," Dr. DeHaven said.
Over the weekend, the U.S. National Cattlemen's Beef Association called for an "indefinite extension" on that public-input period until the investigation is complete. DNA tests will reveal this week whether the Holstein with bovine spongiform encephalopathy was born in Alberta.
"Officials on both sides of the border are seeking only one thing and that is the truth," Dr. DeHaven said. "We want to know exactly where this animal came from and whether that turns out to be of U.S. origin or of Canadian origin. We'll let the chips fall as they may and call them as they are."
Canada's beef industry has lost $1.6-billion in exports since the first case of BSE was discovered in a Black Angus in May, although Washington allowed the sale of Canadian beef products to resume in September. Ottawa had been pushing for the ban to be further eased in the new year.
Canada's chief veterinarian, Brian Evans of the Canadian Food Inspection Agency, said yesterday that the Holstein could have eaten feed contaminated in the United States. The Alberta farmer kept "meticulous" records about breeding and feed dating back 40 years, he said.
According to two ear identification tags (one metal, one plastic) and the farmer's records, the suspect cow was born April 4, 1997, and sold along with 73 other milking cows - the bulk of a 84-head herd - to a buyer in the United States in the summer of 2001. DNA tests are being conducted on relatives, including the semen of the bull believed to be the cow's father, for final confirmation.
U.S. records list a younger age for the cow, perhaps four to 4-1/2 years.
The farmer, forced to retire because of failing health, harvested his own grain for his livestock, but sent it to an undisclosed feed mill for mixing. Many feed mills at the time turned to U.S. suppliers for protein-based material to add to the mix.
In August of 1997, four months after the sick cow is believed to have been born, according to the farmer's records, both Canada and the United States instituted a ban on feeding material from ruminants, or cud-chewing animals, to other ruminants since feed contaminated with products from sick animals was ruled the most likely source of BSE infection.
The Edmonton area farmer was in "full compliance" once the feed ban was adopted and does not appear to have personally added ruminant material to his feed mix, Dr. Evans said. "Nothing he was doing was illegal at that time," he said.
The feed mill is tracing its records for exposure to potentially deadly U.S. feed, as well as trying to determine whether its production line was properly cleaned before ruminant feed hit the line.
Stephen Sundlof, head of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration's Center for Veterinary Medicine, said a "very small dose" of contaminated material - half a gram - can infect cattle, especially calves.
The news is making Canadian cattlemen nervous that a second blow is about to strike the industry. The first case of BSE in May caused the sharp plunge in exports and depressed domestic prices.
"I don't know what's going on any more," said Ronald Molter, owner of a cattle ranch near Stonewall, Man. "First the cow is from the States. Now it's from Canada. All I know is that we have a big problem and now it's gotten worse."
Ted Haney, president of the Canada Beef Export Federation, said any extension of the ban on live-cattle shipments could not be justified on purely scientific grounds, noting that Canada continues to allow some animals from the United States to be sent northward.
Any move to keep the U.S. border shut for political reasons would backfire, as it would hand other trading partners all the justification they need for "Draconian overreactions" to exclude U.S. beef, he said.
Reacting to the request of the U.S. beef industry for an indefinite delay in the process to reopen the border, Mr. Haney said: "Frustration and disappointment have been a constant companion over the last seven months."
A U.S. recall of beef has been extended as officials revealed yesterday that meat from the diseased cow had been sent to Alaska, Hawaii, Idaho, Montana and the territory of Guam. Previously, officials had said much of the meat wound up in Washington and Oregon, with smaller amounts in California and Nevada. Ken Petersen of the USDA's food safety inspection service described the risk to consumers as "very, very low."
The infected cow entered the United States through Idaho in the summer of 2001 and landed in a dairy operation in Mattawa, Wash. In October of 2001, it was sold to a farm in Mabton, Wash., which in turn sent it to slaughter this month after it was injured giving birth.
U.S. officials are tracing the whereabouts of the 73 other animals believed to have entered the United States with the infected cow, as well as its calves. One of those calves is still on the quarantined farm in Mabton. A bull calf was sold to a farm in Sunnyside, Wash., but was untagged. As a result, the farm has been quarantined and every bull calf under 30 days of age there will be slaughtered.
Canadian officials are tracing a single living calf that is believed still to be in Canada.
Canadian ranchers questioned whether the infected animal - one of three downer cows sent for testing that day from that slaughterhouse, according to the USDA - had been identified correctly.
Mr. Haney said the metal tag in the cow's ear had matched Canadian records and was difficult to tamper with, but noted that "there are inconsistencies in the physical description of the animal."
Rancher Erik Butters had a more blunt assessment, saying he believes the animal could have been mistaken for another of the 19 animals slaughtered at the same meat-packing plant that day.
"Did they keep 40 ears or 20 heads? Did a tag get mixed up?"
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