Proposed Restriction of Imports of Mexican Cattle To Montana


The Montana Department of Livestock is proposing an amendment to an existing state law regarding the importation of cattle from Mexico. Concern over Bovine Tuberculosis was raised during the 2017 Montana Legislature over TB cases found in herds in South Dakota and Canada. Those positive TB cases not only caused huge economic loss and stress for producers and communities but witnessed the disposal of cattle herds and lengthy quarantines of ranches for months on end.  The legislature ran out of time to address the issue before the session ended.

The purpose of the measure, the department believes, would ensure better traceability of cattle if a disease outbreak does occur. The type of cattle at the center of the amendment are Mexican Corriente cattle used for the sport of rodeo and team roping. Current state law requires cattle that originate from Mexico, like roping steers, must have an M brand on them signifying they are from Mexico. As well, two negative tuberculosis tests completed for the cattle to enter the state. 

Click on the play button below to listen to Lane Nordlunds report. 


Dr. Tahnee Szymanski, Montana’s Assistant State Veterinarian, told Northern Ag Network that the proposed change would still include the mandatory “M brand” on the Mexican cattle, two TB tests and the addition of the testing of the origin herd in Mexico that the cattle came from. Supporters and opponents of the amendment both agree that collecting the data from the origin herd would be very difficult if not impossible. Currently, North Dakota has a similar law in place for Mexican cattle.

Rodeo contractors and team roping producers feel this will bring great harm to their industry. Sankey Pro Rodeo Company has stated that the regulation has no benefit to agriculture and will bring a serious financial burden to rodeo contractors. In the rodeo sport, athletes state that the best sporting cattle come from Mexico. Saying the Mexican cattle have better stamina, better horns and on an animal welfare basis are the best cattle for the western tradition that is rodeo. Opponents to the measure also state that the similar law in North Dakota is very hard to enforce.

Dr. Szymanski did point to recent cases of Bovine TB that were transferred to herds by different means other than direct contact with herds in Mexico. The case that occurred recently in Alberta can trace the TB back to a Mexican Dairy. But, it’s important to note that Canada does not allow the importation of “M branded” cattle from Mexico into the nation. Thus, their study found that the disease did not come from direct contact with a herd in Mexico because of the prohibition of Mexican cattle that Canada has in place.

This year’s Harding County South Dakota positive TB case was located on a ranch that had both beef cattle and sporting cattle (that were not of Mexican origin) on the ranch. The sporting cattle did not test positive for TB. The beef cattle did. The data showed that the beef herd had no direct contact with a herd from Mexico.  So, if their investigation is 100{b9074abe8f97d35d556dcc91d04f630e2f89dbb1fa8fca20af3e4b7ae12c3e5a}, the organism got into the herd from some other means of introduction. Not direct contract with an origin herd.

As mentioned, North Dakota does not allow “M branded” cattle into the state. Just a few years ago the state had a positive case of Bovine TB in a dairy herd. The investigation discovered the dairy herd did not have direct contact with Mexican cattle. Rather, a seasonal worker from Mexico had a positive case of TB and transferred it to the dairy herd.

Those opposing the measure say that at this point the Mexican sporting cattle are disease free and the current system works. Some believe this move is nothing more than political and only satisfies a group of people that have  an issue with all Mexican cattle being brought into the U.S. and that science is not being looked at.

Those who what to learn more or share their concerns about the amendment can attend a meeting coming next week. The Montana Department of Livestock will hold a meeting next week on August 16, 2017 at 1:00 PM at Billings Livestock Commission to hear from the public on the measure. Concerned persons may also submit their opinions in writing to by mail or email to the department no later than August 18, 2017 by 5:00 PM.

301 N. Roberts St., Room 308, PO Box 202001, Helena, MT 59620-2001

Fax: 406-444-1929


Picture: Pixabay

Northern Ag Network 

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