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Dairy may be unable to rebuild herd

by Carol Dunn

HUERFANO- Walsenburg’s dairy has been dealt two crippling blows in the past few years and may be unable to recover.  Bret and Nancy Corsentino had been struggling for years to overcome economic problems caused when corn yields plummeted after being irrigated by contaminated water and their cattle were sickened.  Then bovine tuberculosis was found at the dairy, and the entire herd was depopulated in August.

Although the facility has been cleaned and is basically ready to house another dairy herd, Nancy Corsentino says, “Plans are still in the making.”  Bret Corsentino told the World-Journal, the bank has taken control of the money paid by the State to depopulate the herd.  “The bank hasn’t been sympathetic,” he said.  “We’re trying to think of a way to repopulate.  It’s about the money.  They give you no out.” Bret said the Corsentinos tried to get reimbursement for the irrigation water damages from the Oil & Gas Commission’s surface damage fund, but were turned down.  “And you can’t sue the gas company.  No lawyer will take the case,” he said.  Because the water was produced by Petroglyph Operating Company in its coalbed methane extraction operation, the Oil & Gas Commission ordered Petroglyph to amend the soil on two of Corsentino’s fields. Bret says corn production is still only 10-12 tons/acre, compared to historical production averaging 19 tons/acre.

Bret is still perplexed about the origin of his herd’s BTB outbreak.  Lance Gatlin, Division of Wildlife District Wildlife Manager, told the World Journal that DOW, in an effort to be a good neighbor, is still trying to assist in figuring out where the BTB came from.  DOW is issuing a specific number of vouchers to landowners in the area around the Corsentino dairy for white-tailed deer, elk and mule deer licenses.  This special disease management hunt started September 15 and will last until October 31.  Gatlin said that any animals harvested will be tested by the DOW lab in Fort Collins to determine the presence or absence of BTB.  Should an animal test positive, the lab can determine how long the disease has been in the animal’s system – thus indicating whether the wildlife contracted BTB from the dairy herd or vice versa.