Minnesota restricts farmed deer to curb disease

Published 8:42 pm Monday, December 16, 2019

ST. PAUL — State officials are asking deer farmers to not transport the animals to and from their properties for a month while investigators trace a new case of chronic wasting disease on a farm in western Minnesota.

The Board of Animal Health issued its request last Wednesday for the state’s 330 deer farms to voluntarily stop moving deer until Jan. 15, the St. Paul Pioneer Press reported.

The board considered putting the state on mandatory lockdown, but opponents argued that would negatively impact breeding.

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“That designation would have a long-lasting impact on every farm in the state, even if they had nothing to do with any case of CWD,” said Tim Spreck, a lobbyist for the Minnesota Deer Farmers Association.

Spreck and others warned the board that if they adopted a state lockdown, other states could block Minnesota deer imports, and this would hinder farmers’ ability to participate in the breeding business.

“It felt like we needed to tap the brakes, rather than having deer continuing to move here and there,” said Dean Compart, chairman of the Board. He initially thought that the statewide lock down was probably the right course of action, but he changed his mind.

“You have to do what you can to stop the disease, but you don’t want to damage an industry,” Compart noted.

Rep. Rick Hansen, a Democratic Farmer Labor Party member, said the board’s decision could present a threat to wild deer.

“This is an example of an agency unable to respond to the facts,” Hansen, who has called for stricter rules on deer farms, said. “This is protecting the status quo.”

The board’s request came after a doe tested positive for CWD in Douglas County.

Dr. Beth Thompson, the state veterinarian who serves as executive director of the board, said the 8-year-old doe wasn’t born there, raising concerns that it became infected at another farm.

Thompson said that herd is connected to multiple herds outside the county. All of those farms have been placed on lockdown.

The infected deer has been killed and an epidemiologist from the U.S. Department of Agriculture has taken samples from deer at the other farms, Thompson added.

Thompson said she hopes to have some test results within weeks, but that the investigation will likely last at least a month.