Texas Animal Health Commission
Box l2966 *Austin, Texas 78711 *(800) 550-8242* FAX (512) 719-0719
Linda Logan, DVM, PhD* Executive Director
Contact Carla Everett, information officer, at 1-800-550-8242, ext. 710
For Immediate Release--
Federal Import Requirements
for Mexican Feeder Cattle in Effect April 1, 2002
The U.S. Department of Agriculture has raised health standards for
importing Mexican feeder cattle in order to protect U.S. animals from
tuberculosis (TB), a bacterial infection that can cause internal lesions in
the lungs, lymph nodes, or other internal organs. On April 1, 2002, feeder
cattle (steers and spayed heifers) from Mexico will enter the U.S. under
health regulations published more than a year ago in the Federal Code of
Regulations by the USDA's Veterinary Services. By 2003, the USDA will
tighten regulations again, when international rules will require exporting
countries to fully meet US-equivalent standards for cattle TB eradication.
"Texas cattle producers import approximately a million Mexican feeders each
year. On April 1, entry regulations for these animals will be tied directly
to the prevalence of TB in their Mexican state of origin, or their region
within a Mexican state," commented Dr. Linda Logan, Texas state
veterinarian and head of the Texas Animal Health Commission (TAHC), the
state's livestock health regulatory authority.
"Mexican feeder animals have offered excellent opportunities for cattle
producers," she said. "Cattle TB, however, continues to be a problem in
many Mexico states, and we must continue to assure that imported animals
are properly tested for TB before they enter Texas. Infected animals can
spread the disease by coughing, bellowing or snorting. The bacterial-laden
aerosol that they expel can be inhaled by animals nearby or could
contaminate feed. If we have TB introduced into our herds, our ability to
trade interstate or internationally would be restricted."
Dr. Logan pointed out that in April 2001, the USDA's Veterinary Services
an interim rule requiring Mexican feeder steers to originate from herds
that had recently been tested for TB. The USDA then agreed to grant
waivers to the whole-herd test, if Mexican states could demonstrate
sufficient progress in eradicating TB prior to April 2002.
During the past five months, USDA-sponsored teams have conducted in-depth
TB status reviews in 16 Mexican states with active TB eradication programs.
The teams, comprised by state and federal regulatory veterinarians, trade
association representatives and laboratory specialists, determined that
only one Mexican state and portions of five other states could be granted a
waiver of the whole-herd test requirement.
Feeder cattle from most other Mexican states will have to originate from
tested herds and then also undergo an individual animal test. Some states
will be prohibited from shipping feeder cattle to the U.S. due to
inadequate TB eradication programs.
"These rules are intended to protect the health of U.S. livestock," noted
Dr. Logan. She pointed out that, in the early l900s, nearly five percent of
U.S. cattle herds were infected with TB. Today, she said, the disease is
extremely rare in U.S. herds. However, more TB-lesioned cattle are being
detected at slaughter, and ear tags indicate that many of these animals are
of Mexican origin."
"Prior to pasteurization, or heat treatment of milk, humans could contract
the disease from infected cows. Today, human TB cases in the U.S. are
rarely, if ever, traced to the cattle form of the disease, due to a
combination of slaughter surveillance, pasteurization of milk and disease
eradication." she said.
"We have worked closely with Mexico on TB eradication since l988, when the
USDA began offering training and technical support," she said. "Since
l994, Mexican cattle have been imported under a 'consensus agreement'
established by the state veterinarians in Texas, California, Arizona and
New Mexico. At least 20 other U.S. states incorporated the consensus
document into their state rules. The new federal rules will provide a more
stringent, yet uniform program for imports."
A Binational Committee, with eight American and eight Mexican
representatives, also has been meeting three times yearly to formalize
status review findings, and discuss TB, brucellosis and trade issues. Dr.
Logan also pointed out that, over the years, groups of regulatory personnel
and producers from California, New Mexico, Texas and Arizona, and other
participating states conducted program reviews in Mexican states. She said
they monitored TB prevalence in Mexican herds, inspected laboratories,
checked slaughter surveillance techniques, and shared ideas and experience.
"The new federal requirements will advance the TB eradication effort by
protecting all US states that may receive Mexican cattle," pointed out Dr.
Richard Ferris, area veterinarian-in-charge for the USDA's Veterinary
Services in Texas. " The USDA-sponsored teams will continue to review
Mexican states as they make progress, so the regulations for each state
could change." He said USDA specialists in Riverdale, Maryland, are
preparing maps delineating the boundaries of TB regions within Mexican
states. The maps are to be ready prior to April 1.
As of April 2002, only feeder cattle--- steers and spayed heifers -- from a
designated portion of Sonora (which borders Arizona) may be imported into
the U.S. without a TB test, because this area has an infection rate of less
than one infected herd per 10,000," Dr. Ferris commented.
"As always, all Mexican cattle must be officially identified with a blue
ear tag imprinted with the name of its Mexican state. The animals must also
be accompanied by a certificate of origin, which documents where the
animals came from," explained Dr. Suzanne (Suzy) Burnham, TAHC's new
binational liaison, who is stationed in San Antonio. She said the imported
animals must also carry an "M"-brand on the hip and will be inspected for
fever ticks at the import station at the border.
"Feeder cattle must have a negative TB skin test before being imported, if
they come from Yucatan; a designated portion of Coahuila, our direct
neighbor to the south; Sinaloa; the remaining portion of Sonora; or a
designated segments of Aguascalientes or Jalisco," said Dr. Burnham. She
said these states or portions of states have between 1 and 5 infected herds
per 1,000 herds.
Dr. Burnham explained that an accredited veterinarian conducts a TB skin
test by injecting tuberculin into the skin or "caudal fold" under the
animal's tail. The site is examined 72 hours later for redness, swelling
or other reaction, which indicates the animal may have been exposed to or
infected with TB.
"Mexican states that did not obtain a whole-herd test waiver from the USDA
include Tamaulipas and portions of Baja California, Campeche, Chihuahua,
Coahuila, Durango, Jalisco, Nuevo Leon and Veracruz," said Dr. Burnham.
"These states will export feeder cattle under the interim rule because they
have an infection prevalence greater than 5 infected herds per 1,000 herds
in the state or area.
"The parent herd (including the feeder cattle being exported ) must have
tested negative for TB within the previous 12 months. This will prevent
cattle exporters from assembling untested feeder animals from a number of
sources shortly before shipment," explained Dr. Burnham. She pointed out
that each of the exported animals also must be individually TB tested
again. The animals are to move under an import permit from the USDA.
"The whole herd test concept is vitally important, as animals that have
been exposed to TB can still test negative for a period of time, if they
are incubating infection. By requiring the entire herd to be tested, we
have a greater probability of determining if there is a health problem and
we can restrict the entry of animals from that herd. The individual animal
retest then gives us greater assurance that the feeder cattle haven't been
incubating disease," explained Dr. Ferris.
"Feeder cattle from some Mexican states or portions of states will be
allowed to enter the U.S. only directly to slaughter. These animals are
from areas that have not made sufficient TB eradication progress or met
program review criteria for inspection, testing, or surveillance," said Dr.
Ferris. "Prior to entry for slaughter, the animals must have a negative TB
test and must be accompanied by the proper paperwork, including an import
permit and official ear tags."
Dr. Logan said the TAHC also will closely scrutinize Mexican roping and
rodeo cattle already in Texas. "We will be checking these animals at
events and practice pens to ensure that these animals have had their
required post-entry TB tests," she said. "The TAHC requires that these
animals be tested every 12 months for TB. We can't have infected imported
stock mixing with valuable animals at events. We urge Texas producers to
do their part by making sure these roping steers are tested on an annual