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Published August 17, 2009, 06:21 AM

N.D. animal health board hires field investigator

With the threat of bovine tuberculosis to the east and brucellosis to the west, North Dakota animal health officials have added another precaution against new animal diseases entering the state.

By: Blake Nicholson, Associated Press

BISMARCK — With the threat of bovine tuberculosis to the east and brucellosis to the west, North Dakota animal health officials have added another precaution against new animal diseases entering the state.

The state Board of Animal Health has hired a field investigator, a first for North Dakota. Agriculture Commissioner Doug Goehring said Justin Maddock, who has worked as a livestock producer and a government administrator, will help the state ward off diseases that can have devastating effects on livestock.

“The focus of this position is really supposed to be to educate people contracting (animals) for large events, fairs, rodeos ... so they know ahead of time what the requirements are,” said State Veterinarian Dr. Susan Keller.

She said Maddock will do some spot checking of livestock and work with brand inspectors, who deal with animals leaving North Dakota. She said it will be a good accountability system for movement of the animals in and out of the state. He will begin work early next month.

First few weeks

Maddock said his duties will be finalized in his first few weeks on the job but expects to be working with groups such as rodeo and rancher associations, “making sure that when people are transporting livestock they’re doing it appropriately.”

He said the ultimate goal is keeping North Dakota free of diseases that have caused problems in other states, including just miles from the North Dakota border in northwestern Minnesota where bovine tuberculosis has been found in cattle and deer.

Maddock, 30, grew up on a farm near the town of Maddock, about 140 miles northeast of Bismarck. He has been the emergency preparedness and response coordinator with Lake Region District Health in Devils Lake since 2002, and holds a bachelor’s degree in animal science from North Dakota State University. He also owns beef cattle and horses.

'A good fit'

Goehring said Maddock’s experience both as a livestock producer and a government administrator make him a good fit for the new position. Maddock said his public health background also will be a plus.

Keller said the Legislature approved the position earlier this year. Maddock will earn about $38,000 a year in salary and benefits.

“We were asked by legislators if we thought we were doing everything possible to prevent disease introduction into the state,” Keller said. “We don’t have any field inspectors for animals coming in and ... we’re living in a different environment right now.”

North Dakota has taken precautions against a westward spread bovine tuberculosis after it was found in northwestern Minnesota including special deer hunting seasons in the northeastern part of the state. Cattle with bovine TB become weak and emaciated, though the risk to people is remote.

The Board of Animal Health has refused to relax import restrictions on Minnesota cattle, even after the U.S. Department of Agriculture last October granted Minnesota “split state status” for bovine TB. That move relaxed testing requirements for cattle producers in the state except those in parts of four northwestern counties where the disease has been found. Other states do not have to recognize the “split state” status.

Tuberculosis free

North Dakota has been considered tuberculosis free since 1976. A state must have at least two herds test positive for the disease within two years to lose the “TB-free” status. The last time a North Dakota cow herd tested positive for the disease was in 1999 in Morton County. The herd was destroyed.

A cow with a TB lesion that was found at a meat processing plant late last year in Long Prairie, Minn., was traced back to a southwestern North Dakota herd, but that herd was later declared free of bovine TB after weeks of testing and released from quarantine.

The North Dakota Board of Animal Health also has refused to immediately lift an order imposed about a year ago that requires Montana cattle imports to test negative for brucellosis. That’s despite the fact that federal officials earlier this summer declared Montana free of the disease, which causes abortions, infertility and lowered milk production in cattle and can be transmitted to people, where it causes severe flulike symptoms.

The North Dakota board might discuss the brucellosis order at its meeting next month.

Maddock said he expects his work to boost efforts to keep North Dakota’s livestock industry healthy.

“The state probably needed something like this a while ago, (but) they’ve done a good job containing (diseases) so far,” he said.