After months of studying information on its neighbor's livestock, North Dakota's Board of Animal Health could decide this week whether to change import restrictions on Minnesota cattle that have been in place for nearly a year.
A spokeswoman for Minnesota's Board of Animal Health says officials in that state have not openly lobbied for the restrictions to be lifted but they have been "more than happy" to answer any questions from North Dakota on efforts to deal with bovine tuberculosis in northwestern Minnesota.
The North Dakota board is to hold its quarterly meeting Wednesday. State Veterinarian Susan Keller said the restrictions "definitely" will be a topic.
The board imposed them in February because of bovine TB in northwestern Minnesota cattle and wild deer. In October, the federal Agriculture Department granted Minnesota "split state status" for bovine TB, which lessened testing requirements for all cattle producers in the state except those in parts of four northwestern counties where the disease has been found.
North Dakota's Board of Animal Health historically has not recognized split-state designations.
North Dakota livestock and wildlife officials are worried that monitoring and control of northwestern Minnesota cattle and wild deer might not be adequate under the "split state" designation.
When Minnesota won its split-state status, the North Dakota board decided against a quick decision on whether to lift its import restrictions. Board President Nathan Boehm said at the time that officials wanted more information so they could have an informed discussion at the December meeting.
"We have been trying to be as open as possible to them," said Malissa Fritz with the Minnesota Board of Animal Health.
Bill Hartmann, Minnesota's state veterinarian, has said officials can adequately control movement of animals in the bovine TB management zone, and that at least 20 other states acknowledge Minnesota's split-state status.
Cattle producers in the management zone have signed 46 herd buyout contracts involving about 6,800 cattle, Fritz said. The 46 herds are a little more than two-thirds of all herds in the zone.
"To remove 6,800 animals is phenomenal," Fritz said.
The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources said it tested about 1,250 deer in the northwest during the fall hunting season and did not detect any "obvious" cases of bovine TB. Michelle Carstensen, coordinator of the agency's Wildlife Health Program, said final test results should be available early next year.
The North Dakota board is trying to protect the "TB-free" status the state has had for 32 years. The import restrictions, which apply to cattle and other livestock as well as farmed deer and elk, are detailed and complicated. They require more stringent testing and inspections before the animals can be brought west across the Red River along the Minnesota-North Dakota line.