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From: TSS ()
Subject: Mad cow case's origin is narrowed USDA says the diseased animal came from Southeast Texas
Date: July 1, 2005 at 6:19 am PST

July 1, 2005, 12:35AM

Mad cow case's origin is narrowed
USDA says the diseased animal came from Southeast Texas
Copyright 2005 Houston Chronicle


AP file
U.S. Agriculture Secretary Mike Johanns tours a Utah beef processing plant in May.

Mad cow found in U.S. cow from Texas 6/24

• The connection between mad cow disease and humans
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Phone hot lines:
• USDA meat and poultry hot line: 1-888-674-6854
• Regular updates at 1-866-4USDACO.

• USDA news release on BSE finding 6/24
• Active USDA meat recalls
• Overview of the disease

Video courtesy Associated Press. (Free Real Player required.)

WACO - The cow that tested positive for mad cow disease came from Southeast Texas, the owner of a pet-food company that took delivery of the animal said Thursday.

"The USDA told me it's from somewhere in the southeast part of the state," said Benjy Bauer, owner of Waco-based Champion Pet Foods. "That's all they would say, and believe me, I've asked them several times. I want to know, too."

Bauer said that a livestock hauler, whom he declined to identify, brought in the cow, which was dead when it arrived at Champion.

The company normally buys "downers," cows that cannot stand up and are therefore barred from human consumption, and animals a few hours dead.

The five-employee company produces pet food for racing greyhounds from a small tan-and-brown building in an industrial section on the north side of town. Across Industrial Boulevard, dwarfing Champion, sit two large chicken-processing plants.

Clint Moran, who works as a Waco livestock hauler, said many of the cows Champion buys are from the area.

"For maybe $75, it isn't worth your while to haul a downed cow too far," said Moran, who added he has sold the company downed cows.

Long-distance haulers who deliver healthy cows in the region can be left at the end of the line with a downer that fell ill during the trip, he said.

"They'd know to drop it off at Champion and recover a few bucks," he said.

The company buys cows "from all over," administrative assistant Melissa Fulton said.

She said it has a contract with the USDA to test all downed and dead cows more than 30 months old for bovine spongiform encephalopathy.

In a release issued Wednesday, the company said it sent a sample of the brain from the infected cow to a laboratory at Texas A&M University, where a test for BSE was inconclusive.

No part of the animal made it into the company's products, Bauer said.

The Texas Animal Health Commission, the state agency responsible for monitoring diseased livestock, referred all requests for information about the cow to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

A "hold order" was issued by the commission to the owner of the cow, to prevent any other cattle from moving from the immediate premises, according to a woman in the agency's public information office who would only give her first name.

Except for the satellite-TV truck parked at the gas station across the road and a steady stream of reporters coming to the front door, it was business as usual at Champion the day after the news broke that the cow in question, a breeding cow, spent its 12-year life in Texas and ended up at Champion.

'Uncertainty is the concern'
At midmorning, a pickup pulling a cattle trailer rumbled into the gravel parking lot and stopped at the loading dock.

Through the light dust and the thick packing-house scent, a photographer watched as workers hooked a chain to a cow on the floor of the trailer. They winched it inside and closed a large metal door.

At the front desk, Fulton juggled calls from the media, her boss and an employee who apparently had the day off.

"You're lucky you're not here today," she told her colleague. "I wish I were you."

Meanwhile talk of the Texas cow case made rounds among ranchers gathered in Galveston for a trade convention.

"The uncertainty is the concern of most of our members,"said Shane Sklar, executive director of the Independent Cattlemen's Association of Texas. "We want the details to ease our minds."

The USDA would not release the location of the ranch the animal came from.

Government officials stressed that the cow, likely infected from feed containing cow parts that was banned years after the cow was born, never made it into animal or food supply.

Now they're testing the herd and tracing back the feed supply the cow ate.

"I'd like to know where the cow's from," said Marie Edwards, who runs a ranch near Yorktown. "I wish it didn't happen. I don't think anyone will want to eat our cows."

The obscurity around the process had some ranchers questioning the Agriculture Department's abilities.

"I don't think it was handled in the best fashion," said Wesely Ratcliff, 60, a rancher from Oakwood. "I wish they'd find a more definitive testing process."

First tests inconclusive
The case was found in November. As a "downer" that couldn't walk, it was considered high risk.

Initial tests on the animal had come back inconclusive, but two more tests using a more sophisticated method indicated the cow was free of mad cow disease.

The USDA's inspector general requested further testing earlier this month. That test came back positive. Samples were then sent to a lab in Weybridge, England, which confirmed the results.

Ratcliff worried the news would harm the U.S. beef industry and give export markets another reason to say no to American beef. Cattle closed down Thursday 0.25 cent at 79.30 cents a pound.

Chronicle reporter Terri Langford contributed to this report. and


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