USDA announced late Tuesday that a second head of cattle has shown an "inconclusive" test for bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE). An "inconclusive" test is a rapid test that shows positive for the presence of the disease, and tissues are sent for further testing at the National Veterinary Services Laboratory in Ames, Iowa.
Results of the more complete test on the first animal announced last Friday have not been announced, but the publication Feedstuffs reported today that the USDA has conducted a second rapid test on that animal, which turned up a negative result. The first cow was at the center of the first inconclusive test was only 16-17 months old, unlikely to be carrying the disease.
Cattle Buyers Weekly
reported that the second inconclusive BSE involved an 8-year-old cow, probably a dairy cow. "The age of the cow in the second case raises additional concerns that this animal may be more likely to test positive eventually because of its age, say observers," the article says.
The newest case reported by USDA's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) after 5:15 Tuesday evening. John Clifford, APHIS deputy administrator, issued a statement noting: "The inconclusive result does not mean we have found another case of BSE in this country. Inconclusive results are a normal component of screening tests, which are designed to be extremely sensitive so they will detect any sample that could possibly be positive."
APHIS notes that the carcass of the latest animal has been accounted for and is not in the food supply. Clifford maintains that this second inconclusive test is likely to turn up negative when the more detailed test is completed, a contention with which some observers disagree. Clifford says the more detailed test results will be available within four to seven days.
USDA's policy of reporting inconclusive findings is already drawing controversy. Cattle markets dropped the limit on Monday after Friday's announcement. Prices recovered some territory on the Chicago Mercantile Exchange today, but did not make up all the losses experienced on Monday. This latest news may further impact prices.
Be sure to look at the updated market prices for live and feeder cattle prices on our site to the right. Prices haven't gone limit down, but the view isn't necessarily positive. We will continue to provide you updates on the latest developments.