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Canadian officials in Minneapolis Tuesday morning informed Montana cattlemen that a cow slaughtered for rendering in northern Alberta in late January tested positive for "mad cow" disease.

Steve Pilcher, executive vice president of the Montana Stockgrowers Association, said Christopher Thompson, a consul general of Canada, called to inform him that Canadian agriculture officials were in Edmonton, Alberta Tuesday to announce the findings.

The United States temporarily banned the import of Canadian beef, beef products and feed.

Pilcher said, "We have to trust the system. There is a tendency to over react," alluding to false rumors last year of hoof and mouth disease in the United States.

"I applaud the USDA move because it could be a significant threat to the industry," said Pilcher.

In recent years, thousands of Montana feeder cattle have gone to Alberta feedlots and slaughter plants. Likewise, thousands of fed cattle have come south for slaughter in the United States as well as tons of beef for the U.S. market.

Pilcher said he hoped it was the case that the cow identified with BSE was an isolated incident.

Mad cow disease, known scientifically as bovine spongiform encephalopathy or BSE, first erupted in Britain in 1986, and is thought to have spread through cow feed made with protein and bone meal from mammals. The FDA outlawed the feeding of mammalian meat and bone meal to cattle, sheep and goats in 1997, a rule considered the nation's main defense against mad cow disease. It has caused about 90 deaths in Great Britain and Europe.

Pilcher said the eight-year cow was from a herd near Fairview about 300 miles north of Edmonton. The herd has been quarantined, will be killed and tested for BSE.

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