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U.S. closes border to Canadian cattle

EDMONTON, Alta. -- Canadian cattleliners are being turned back from the U.S. border after a case of mad cow disease...

EDMONTON, Alta. — Canadian cattleliners are being turned back from the U.S. border after a case of mad cow disease has been confirmed at an Edmonton-area farm.

The U.S. placed a temporary ban on all Canadian beef imports yesterday, just hours after news surfaced of the Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy (BSE) case in Alberta, a disease commonly known as mad cow disease.

“As part of its ongoing surveillance program for BSE, Alberta agricultural officials tested an eight-year-old cow that had been condemned at slaughter and removed it from the food system,” confirmed federal Agriculture Minister Lyle Vanclief in a news conference yesterday. “I want to stress from the beginning this is one cow.”

Although U.S. Agriculture Secretary Ann Veneman said it appeared to be an isolated incident, the U.S. is taking no chances.

“USDA is placing Canada under its BSE restriction guidelines and will not accept any ruminants or ruminant products from Canada pending further investigation,” Veneman, announced yesterday afternoon.

Canadian beef producers and livestock haulers are hoping the U.S. border won’t remain closed to Canadian cattle for long.

“We can go a couple of weeks and then after that the wheels fall off,” Brad Wildeman, of the Saskatchewan Cattle Feeders Association, tells local media. “I think so much depends on our ability to re-open at least the U.S. market, or most of our markets, in a two-week time frame, because if we can’t, then this is a multi, tens-of-millions of dollars of impact.”

The farm that housed the infected cow has been quarantined and the entire herd is being slaughtered to ensure the disease isn’t spread. It’s still unclear whether the infected cow was home-grown or imported.

“The cow was eight years-old. We know that for the past three years the cow has been on the farm in northern Alberta. It has not been on that farm all of its life,” Debbie Barr, veterinarian with the Canadian Food Inspection Agency, tells local media. “The critical point for us now is where that cow spent those (first) five years.”

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