LANSING — Restrictions on cattle movement. More testing requirements. Crushing costs.
It’s all on the table for Michigan — unless deer hunters step up to the plate when it comes to tuberculosis (TB) testing.
At stake is Michigan’s “split state” status, which allows for a vast majority of the state to be considered nearly free of TB, while a zone of four counties — Montmorency, Alpena, Oscoda and Alcona — and the seven counties surrounding them to be subject to additional testing for TB in deer.
At least 2,800 deer must be submitted for testing in the four core counties, with lower quotas set for the counties listed below, including a 10-mile circle in Emmet county.
Not adding any more burdensome regulations is critical to farmers who raise cattle, said MFB Legislative Counsel Andrew Vermeesch.
“This is a big deal,” he said. “We violated our Memorandum of Understanding of USDA last year because we did not submit enough deer heads for TB testing.”
While the COVID-19 pandemic put a hamper on hunting season last year, hitting the required numbers this year would show USDA that Michigan is serious about the issue.
“Falling short of the required testing again would send the wrong message to USDA as they reevaluate our current agreement. This could lead to additional testing requirements and restrictions on cattle movement in and out of the state, which would be devastating,” Vermeesch added.
The message to hunters is clear: take TB testing seriously and submit deer heads. This will not only help with compliance but assist in tracking TB in free range deer so that better management decisions can be made future.
“Since 1994, when Michigan first detected Bovine TB, the state government and livestock producers have spent millions of dollars to combat the disease spread and lower our TB status,” Vermeesch said.
It’s especially important to submit heads for testing because even though a deer might not appear to be infected, it could be carrying TB.
“In most cases, hunters will not see signs that the deer is infected while field dressing it,” said DNR Wildlife Health Specialist Emily Sewell. “About 60% of the TB-infected deer tested by the DNR have had no lesions in their body and the lymph nodes in the deer’s head were needed to determine the infection.”
To help in the testing efforts, the Michigan DNR is offering more testing sites — including 24-hour drop boxes — to counties where testing quotas are in place.
If you’d rather get some expert help in the process, you can head to one of the 14 staffed check stations. Most are open from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. from Nov. 15-30, but you should check the DNR website for specific details on each location.
Hunters should also know that nothing submitted for testing gets returned, so antlers should be removed if they would like to keep them.
For more information, visit www.Michigan.gov/DeerCheck.
— Michigan Farm Bureau