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Local feed stores unaffected by mad cow disease


A case of mad cow disease in Canada has raised concerns about the spread of the disease around the world, but local feed stores said the ban on importing some Canadian products hasn't affected what they can sell.

"Our feeds are natural grain," said Lee Kohler, manager of the Big R. Store in Havre. "The only thing that was quarantined was things with bone meal.

"Our (Canadian feeds) are 100 percent grain made in Alberta," he added.

Canadian officials reported on May 20 that an eight-year-old cow in Alberta had been slaughtered and tested positive with the brain-wasting disease bovine spongiform encephalopathy, or BSE. BSE is commonly called "mad cow disease."

Scientists believe people can contract a similar disease - Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease - when they eat meat from cattle infected with BSE.

Cattle are believed to contract the disease when they eat feed containing products derived from other cattle infected with it, such as bone meal.

Canada and the United States both banned the use of cattle feed containing meat and bone meal in 1997.

The United States banned importation of Canadian cattle, beef, and products containing rendered cattle, such as dog or poultry food, after the case of BSE was reported last week.

Kohler said Big R. customers have said they thought the store would have to quit selling its imported feed, but the ban does not apply to those products.

Other local marketers said the ban does not affect them because they do not import Canadian feed, including Golden Harvest Seeds in Big Sandy and Milk River Cooperatives in Havre.

Rick Lamb, manager of R & G Quality Feeds in Malta, said his store does not sell any feed with animal byproducts in it or any feed imported from Canada. A ban on Canadian feed won't hurt his business, he said.

"It'll help our feed business, is all I can say. (Canadian feed businesses) have been one of our biggest competitors," he said.

Ed Kelly of Superior Feeds in Chester echoed that. The only Montanans who are likely to be impacted by the ban are people that buy directly from Canadian manufacturers, he said.

Dexter Buck of Bear Paw Livestock in Chinook said last week that the ban could help Montana beef prices as well.

Canada is the top foreign supplier of live cattle to the United States, exporting 1.7 million head last year, or 75 percent of the total U.S. imports.

Canadian Consul General Christopher Thomson, who represents an eight-state region in the United States including Montana, said one impact locally could be sending cattle across the border to feed them. Montana typically sends more than 100,000 cattle into Canada each year, then brings them back to Montana for slaughter, he said.

The Canadian government is searching both the herds the infected cow's calves went to and the herds the cow had been in, going out to other herds that may have eaten the same feed as the infected cow, Thomson said.

"The testing's going on at a feverish pace 24 hours a day," he said.

Canada has quarantined about 2,000 head of cattle from 17 herds, and slaughtered and tested several hundred head so far, Thomson said. The case reported May 20 is the only infected cow so far, he said.

The cow that was infected was apparently rendered into byproducts that may have been used in poultry or dog food, Thomson said, but could not have entered the human food chain. Scientific evidence indicates that poultry and dogs do not catch a disease from eating products from an infected cow, he said.

The cow was slaughtered in January and removed from the human food chain because it was believed to have pneumonia, Thomson said. Because of that belief, testing of the animal's brain was put on a low priority, he said.

The recent case of the disease is the second ever discovered in North America. The first was in Canada in 1993, involving a bull imported from Britain.

BSE was first diagnosed in 1986 in Britain. It was discovered in 2 million head of cattle there and was linked to 130 people's contracting Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease, which causes paralysis and death.

Information from The Associated Press was used in this story.


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