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Texas cattle to be tested for mad cow disease

AUSTIN, Texas (CNN) -- Animal health officials in Texas plan to put to death 22 German-imported cows to test them for signs of bovine spongiform encelphalopathy (BSE), commonly called mad cow disease.

The animals are among 29 that were imported legally into Texas between February 1996 and September 1997, said Carla Everett, a spokeswoman for the Texas Animal Health Commission. She said four of those have already been destroyed and tested, with negative results for BSE, and three others died of causes not related to BSE.

The 22 remaining are to be euthanized some time this spring, she said.

Twelve others cows came over at the same time as the 29 sent to Texas, with eight going to Colorado, one to California, one to Illinois and two to Minnesota. There was no immediate word on what has being done with those.

In 1992, Germany found a BSE-positive animal, one that had been imported from Britain. Three more animals imported to Germany tested positive in 1994, and another two in 1997.

Fear that the animals in the herd sent to Texas and the other states might have BSE stems from the belief that contaminated feed moved throughout the European Union as recently as 1997.

The first case of mad cow disease in Belgium, in 1997, is thought to be a result of consuming that feed.

The animals in Texas have been held under quarantine since March 1997 while the Denver-based National Cattleman's Beef Association spearheaded an effort to raise money to add to the mandatory federal compensation of $2,000 per animal, which falls short of market value.

A spokesperson for the Texas Department of Agriculture told CNN that the cows' owners will be paid $4,700 per animal. Everett said three Texas cattle producers are involved.

Offspring from the suspect animals have not been restricted because there is no evidence that transmission can occur from asymptomatic animals to their calves.

After the cows are killed, brain tissue from each animal will be collected and transported to the National Veterinary Services Laboratory in Ames, Iowa, for testing. The carcasses of the animals will be incinerated, and the meat will not enter the food chain, according to a statement from the health commission.

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4:30pm ET, 4/16

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