As of December, Mexico is still not accepting U.S. origin cattle, or breeding sheep or goats. Likewise, it also remained a violation of USDA rules to illegally export breeding ruminant animals into Mexico.
Kathleen Burda, DVM, USDA assistant veterinarian in charge, Import/Export in Texas, says Mexico closed its doors to breeding ruminants after the Dec. 23, 2003 announcement that single Canadian-born dairy cow had been confirmed with bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) in Washington State. The Mexican border has remained closed ever since.
"We've been negotiating steadily and regularly with the Mexicans to get our market back open," Burda says. "We all had hoped with our having re-opened the border with Canada, that Mexico would join us too. But so far, they have not."
In the meantime, USDA has the authority and will take enforcement action for any illegal export movements of animals into Mexico. Any violations will result in a fine, and repeat violations will mean increasing penalties.
If Mexico decides to re-open its border to U.S. cattle, breeding sheep and goats, all animals must be officially identified and tested for brucellosis and tuberculosis (except sheep), and accompanied to the port with an origin health certificate from an accredited veterinarian, endorsed by USDA Veterinary Service.
"This office will be the point of contact for any information on the import and export of livestock through the Texas ports," Burda emphasizes.
USDA Under Secretary of Agriculture J.B. Penn notes as of 2005, some 189,135 total cases of BSE had been reported worldwide. A whopping 92% of those cases occurred before 1997 (same year U.S. banned feeding ruminant-rendered feed to ruminants). What's more, 97% of all cases were in the United Kingdom.
Randy Blach, executive vice president, Cattle-FAX, Englewood, Colorado, says whatever the trade partner, animal ID is crucial--The most critical thing you (ranchers) can do is tag and ID your animals," Blach assures. "They will have a value in the export market when the markets re-open."
With about 13.8 million cattle and calves at the beginning of 2005, Texas is the No. 1 in U.S. numbers, with Kansas a distant second with 6.65 million animals.