As the State of Texas continues dealing with violence and other critical issues along the Texas-Mexico border, the threat of an animal disease and parasite outbreak continues to grow. Cattle are constantly being transported into Texas, and the lack of proper border security creates health inspection challenges along the border region of Texas and Mexico. This is of grave concern to me as a cattle rancher.

The increasing global commerce and relative ease of movement across nations and continents makes it possible to transfer people, products and animals around the world in a matter of hours. Such international movement greatly enhances the possibility of transmitting diseases and parasites, which could devastate the cattle industry and threaten the public health of this country. 

I know how serious these issues are and understand how easily an accidental disease outbreak or bio-terrorism attack could devastate our cattle herds across the state and nation.

There are many different animal diseases that are constantly being observed by ranchers, the Texas Animal Health Commission (TAHC) and the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA).

The control of fever ticks along the Texas-Mexico border is a critical animal health issue for the cattle industry. Fever ticks reduce animal productivity by feeding on blood and inducing anemia. They also spread parasites that cause disease in cattle and wildlife.

These pests are of major concern to the U.S. livestock industry because they could cause devastating economic loss. According to a Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service report, the cost of a relatively small fever tick outbreak outside of the quarantine zone in Texas would be $123 million in the first year, including capital costs and ongoing variable, annual costs.

TSCRA strongly supports the efforts of the TAHC and USDA for surveillance, testing of control methods, and treatment of any livestock or wildlife that may serve as a host for cattle fever ticks. We also recognize the importance of cattle production in all quarantine zones. These zones have proven effective for controlling the disease.

Additionally, ranchers must work to prevent trichomoniasis. This is a venereal disease that results in infertility, abortions, delayed calving and reduced calf crops. Unfortunately, trichomoniasis has an increasing prevalence in the cattle herds in Texas and it is a disease that requires prevention rather than cure. There is not an effective treatment for infected bulls, thus leaving slaughter of such bulls as the only viable option. Texas has already implemented regulations to address this devastating disease; however it is crucial for ranchers to take the threat of this disease seriously and make sure it isn’t introduced into their cattle herds.

Another animal disease we should watch closely is tuberculosis, which is primarily a respiratory disease caused by bacteria. It affects the lungs and chest lymph nodes, and symptoms include weight loss, chronic cough and death.

While Texas is currently declared free of tuberculosis, testing of imported cattle has not been adequate enough to prevent tuberculosis in all U.S. cattle. TSCRA supports USDA rules that are based on sound science and provide for adequate testing and surveillance of domestic and imported cattle to help completely eradicate tuberculosis in the U.S. We support the efforts of the TAHC to keep Texas free of this disease.  

There are many other critical diseases that cattle ranchers shouldn’t take for granted. While ranchers continue working to keep their livestock healthy and free of disease, TSCRA also believes animal disease traceability plays an important role in helping cattle producers prevent animal diseases. Intrastate and interstate disease traceability programs have enabled the cattle industry and state and federal animal health officials to respond rapidly and effectively to animal health emergencies if they should arise. I believe this is key to protecting cattle herds in Texas and across the country.

Lastly, as TSCRA works with legislators during the 84th Texas Legislative Session and at the federal level, we will keep these issues in mind. TSCRA will support federal and state animal health official’s reasonable requests for resources needed to protect the cattle industry from devastating animal diseases.

Should any cattle raisers have questions or concerns regarding animal health issues, I urge them to contact TSCRA. We will conscientiously monitor these issues, and I encourage all TSCRA members to do the same for the protection of the entire beef industry.