Alabama Cow Brings Dead End Investigation

After investigating 36 farms and 5 auction houses, Alabama officials end investigation with little history of confirmed BSE animal.

Published on: May 4, 2006

Alabama state officials and USDA's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service officially ended its epidemiological investigation into a March bovine spongiform encephalopathy find. The investigation did not reveal the BSE-positive animal's herd of origin and only two of its most recent offspring.

Alabama state officials and APHIS investigated 36 farms and 5 auction houses and conducted DNA testing on herds that may have included relatives of the index animal. State investigators and APHIS were unable to find any related animals except for the two most recent calves of the index animal. The most recent calf was located at the same farm as the index animal and the second calf died the year before. No other animals of interest were located. The living calf of the BSE-positive animal is currently being held at APHIS' National Veterinary Services Laboratory in Ames, Iowa, for observation.

The red crossbred was euthanized on the farm prior to samples being sent to APHIS. Officials determined through dentition and excavating the animal's carcass that it is more than 10 years old.

Officials add it was not entirely unexpected that the investigation didn't reveal the animal's herd of origin. This is due to the age of the animal. The index animal did not have any identifying brands, tattoos or tags either.

The state and federal joint investigation did not reveal the BSE-positive animal's herd of origin. However, this was not entirely unexpected due to the age of the animal, along with its lack of identifying brands, tattoos and tags. Experience worldwide has shown that it is highly unusual to find BSE in more than one animal in a herd or in an affected animal's offspring.

It was born prior to the implementation of FDA's 1997 feed ban that minimizes the risk that a cow might consume feed contaminated with the agent thought to cause BSE. To ensure that adequate feed controls were in place in the feed facilities in the immediate geographic area of the index farm, FDA conducted a feed investigation into local feed mills that may have supplied feed to the index animal after the 1997 feed ban. This investigation found that all local feed mills that handle prohibited materials have been and continue to be in compliance with the FDA's feed ban.

To read USDA's final report, click HERE.