Unknown number of calves to be killed

Officials can't pinpoint offspring in mad cow case


SEATTLE - As federal investigators search for cows that were imported from Canada with the Holstein that was found to have the nation's first case of mad cow disease, Washington state officials have begun a process that will kill the sick animal's offspring.

The cow - which was sent from a dairy farm in Mabton, Wash., and slaughtered Dec. 9 - gave birth to a bull calf shortly before slaughter. That calf was sent to a feedlot in Sunnyside, about 10 miles north of the Mabton ranch.

But because officials cannot pinpoint the calf, they plan to kill all bull calves in the feedlot herd of 464 animals that are younger than 30 days, the same age as the sick cow's offspring, said Linda Waring, a spokeswoman for the state's Department of Agriculture.

It is still unclear how many calves will have to die, Waring said yesterday.

Experts say the risk of cows passing on mad cow disease, or bovine spongiform encephalopathy, to their offspring is extremely low.

But officials decided it was prudent to destroy the calves, Waring said.

"Basically, it would be all bull calves under 30 days of age," she said. "They are identifying them now."

Officials have not disclosed the name of the Sunnyside feedlot.

Officials from the U.S. Department of Agriculture made the decision to kill the bull calves at the Sunnyside ranch, Waring said.

They are leading the investigation, she said, and have not decided whether to kill a separate herd of about 4,000 cows at the Mabton ranch, which is under quarantine.

Another calf born to the sick cow is still in Mabton at the Sunny Dene Ranch, where federal officials said they had identified nine other live animals that came from the same herd as the sick cow.

The difficulty in pinpointing the offspring of the diseased cow comes amid other difficulties in identifying the location and fate of 81 cows thought to have been shipped to the United States from Alberta, Canada, in August 2001.

Sid Wavrin, an owner of the Sunny Dene Ranch, the last place the diseased cow was before slaughter, said in a telephone interview yesterday that he did not know how many others of the 81 might be on his ranch.

"We don't know what we got out of there," Wavrin said, of the shipment from Canada.

"They know more than we do," he said, referring to federal agriculture officials.

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