Volume 3, Number 36 - December 4, 2003
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Boulder herd infected with brucellosis
State and federal animal health officials have confirmed that a Sublette County cattle herd is infected with brucellosis, according to Wyoming State Veterinarian Dr. Jim Logan.
The Boulder-area herd remains under quarantine and the infected animals will soon be sent to slaughter, although the details hadn’t yet been worked out with the herd owner, Logan said.
“We know we have an infected herd,” said Logan.
Brucellosis, or Bang's disease, is a bacterial disease that causes abortion and lowered milk production in cattle. It's been the subject of a national eradication effort since the 1930s and has been nearly eliminated from the nation's livestock, although a reservoir of the disease survives in wildlife populations in the Yellowstone region.
Animal health officials drew blood samples from the quarantined cattle herd, estimated at 400 head, on Tuesday and Wednesday.
Governor Dave Freudenthal said Thursday that he has been apprised of the situation, but said it’s too soon to know the impact on Wyoming’s cattle industry.
Freudenthal said, “This is an incredibly serious problem and one that we have to deal with.”
He noted that Colorado animal health officials had already issued an order prohibiting the movement of any Sublette County, northern Lincoln County or Teton County-area cattle into Colorado. Colorado also imposed additional requirements on cattle originating from other areas of Wyoming, and took this action before the infected herd was confirmed.
Freudenthal suggested the state would need to take action to limit the area of Wyoming in which other states would feel compelled to impose restrictions for. But that can’t happen until the area of infection is better defined, he said, referring to the testing of neighboring herds.
“We’re somewhat captive to the rate of testing at this point,” he said.
The impact of a single infected herd “is somewhat grave,” Freudenthal said, but “It obviously takes on significant additional impacts” if more herds are involved.
At least two other herds in Boulder area, located just south of Pinedale, will now undergo testing as well, at the prompting of federal officials but at the consent of the herd owners. Early next week, a herd of 800 head of cattle will be tested, then a third herd, consisting of 500 head, will be tested beginning on Dec. 11. Neither of these two herds is under quarantine at this time.
The contact herds and all sales and purchases from the infected herd will be tested, along with any animals the infected herd may have grazed with or shared a fenceline with. Testing one time probably won’t be enough for neighboring herds, even if they test clean the first time, federal and state veterinarians said.
Wyoming has been classified as a brucellosis-free state for nearly 25 years. The normal policy in a brucellosis-free status state is for the entire herd in which an infected animal is detected to be depopulated because of the potential risk involved in keeping the animals, said federal veterinarian Dr. Brett Combes said of the USDA Animal and Plant Heath Inspection Service. Depopulated means slaughtered.
"There are other options," Combes said, but because they involve long-term testing and quarantine, “they are not very viable."
Combes said infected animals must be immediately removed from the herd by taking them to slaughter, allowing further testing of the carcass.
The federal government will pay the costs associated with testing these herds. In the case of depopulating a herd, the producer can receive the slaughter value along with a small indemnity payment from the federal government, Combes said. It's a small amount compared to the value put into these breeding herds, developed over many years.
Animal health officials are currently making contact with other livestock producers in the area to talk about testing their cattle as well. These initial three herds certainly seem to be only the beginning of a much larger effort to come.
“We’ve got to get ahead of this as fast as we can,” Freudenthal said, adding he plans to make a trip to Sublette County, probably the week of Dec. 15 when more test results are available.
Logan has scheduled a community meeting Dec. 15 at 7 p.m. at the Pinedale Entertainment Center. All area livestock producers are urged to attend.
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