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Bovine TB decimates local dairy

by Debi Sporleder

WALSENBURG- Huerfano County has been fortunate to have a fourth generation dairy farm contribute to the sustainability of the community:  14 families make their living from the Corsentino Dairy Farm, $800,000 worth of feed is purchased within 100 miles of the county, the purchase of fuel and many other consumables is helping to sustain this county.  “Because of the changing environmental conditions in the county and now a positive Tuberculosis (TB) test, dairying in Huerfano County is being challenged” says Brett Corsentino, owner and operator of the Corsentino Dairy.

    Corsentino suffered a blow several weeks ago when one of his head of cattle was tested positive for TB at a slaughter house.  When something like that happens, USDA and the State Veterinarian come into the facility and test all animals.  If TB is discovered, the facility has two options:  Option 1 is to get rid of all responders (the cows that “responded” to the TB test) and test every 6 months until there are no responders.  Because of a fair number of false positives in the first test, another test may reveal another responder and it could go on and on. 

    Option 2 is to depopulate the whole herd (even the non-responder animals and calves), clean up the facility and repopulate after a 30-day down period.  The state offers a certain amount of money for a short amount of time to help with depopulating, cleaning and repopulating. After that, you are on your own.  Corsentino opted for Option 2.  That means all the respondent dairy cows are gone (have been for at least two weeks) and the negative tested cows will be gone by mid-August. He is hoping they will be able to repopulate next month.  Using this method they can keep some of their business going so it isn’t a complete financial hit. 

    Corsentino said he is “so thankful for the help of The Maria Lake Land and Grazing and their manager Monty Morgan with equipment and labor in the clean up.  It has been a God-send!”  He added, “ What great neighbors they are.”

    By saying the cows are “gone,” Corsentino means one of two things.  The responders go to a rendering plant.  Rendering is a process that converts waste animal tissue into stable, value-added materials (Wikipedia).  The non-responders go to slaughter.   All animals going to slaughter are visually inspected to make sure there are no visible lesions, which indicate disease.

    BTB is a contagious, cow-to-cow disease. Corsentino has not bought new cows in six years and they have been tested three times since the last purchase.  It is concerning to Corsentino, the USDA and the State Veterinarian, Dr. Keith Roehr, that this disease happened so quickly.  As of now, there are no definitive answers.

    Because of the TB, there has been concern in the community about livestock at the 4H fair.  According to Dr. Keith Roehr, Colorado State Veterinarian, there is nothing to be afraid of.  He also talked to public health officials and there was no concern on their part, either. 

    He and the USDA quarantined all the dairy cows and tested all the 4H animals which are located 300-400 yards from the dairy barn.  None of the 4H animals tested positive and they didn’t have common caretakers. There are no proven cases of the disease being transmitted through caretakers.  TB is transmitted through direct contact in feeding troughs and long-term exposure.          According to Dr. Roehr, all 4H animals which belong to Corsentino and his herdsman have been released for movement and the release for movement would not have been allowed if there was any indication of TB.

    Dr. Roehr also said that when they are done with the priority tracking of cattle moved from the dairy, they will eventually begin testing neighboring cattle.  “The Corsentinos have been very cooperative in this endeavor,” Dr. Roehr said.  “When they decide to repopulate after the 30-day down period, normal interstate testing will be done when bringing in new cattle.” 

    For more information, please call the Colorado Department of Agriculture, Division of Animal Industry at 303-239-4161.  Dr. Roehr would be happy to answer any questions.