In May 2003, the U.S. government placed a ban on all shipments of live cattle from Canada after a case of bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) was discovered in Alberta. Canada, in turn, prohibited northbound shipments of live U.S. cattle after a case of the disease was found in the state of Washington in December.

The Kesler bulls have been placed under quarantine in the Helena, MT, area pending further investigation by the Montana Department of Livestock (MDL), USDA and the U.S. Bureau of Customs and Border Protection. The animals currently present no human or animal health risk, assure MDL officials. Greg Kesler also lists Helena as a place of residence.

Marc Bridges, executive secretary for the Montana Board of Livestock, says the bulls apparently entered the U.S. at the remote border crossing at Del Bonita in northwestern Montana. It's believed the bulls were commingled with a load of rodeo horses when presented for entry at the Del Bonita crossing. It's unclear whether the truck was inspected by customs agents at the border. Once the shipment arrived in Pocatello, rodeo cowboys apparently recognized some of the bulls and alerted Idaho brand authorities of their possible Canadian origin.

Idaho Brand Board officials immediately contacted Bridge's department on March 22, and he ordered the bulls returned to Montana for impoundment and further investigation.

Bridges says the state charges against Kesler include transporting livestock into and through Montana without a health certificate or import permit, and crossing county and state lines without proper documentation. More serious are violations of federal customs declaration laws and USDA/Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service temporary rules banning international trade in ruminant livestock.

It's up to USDA and the Canadian Food Inspection Agency to decide disposition of the bulls, which are estimated to be worth about $4,000 each. If refused re-entry into Canada, they will have to be slaughtered and properly disposed of in the U.S. No part of the animals will be allowed to enter the food chain, Bridges says.