Volume 5, Number 38 - December 15, 2005
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Brucellosis-free status depends on registration law
Wyoming's success in gaining class-free brucellosis status may hinge on future action by the Wyoming Legislature, according to animal health officials. Wyoming lost its class-free status in February 2004 after it was discovered that several cattle herds were infected with brucellosis. Wyoming's status fell to class A, requiring testing for the disease prior to marketing livestock.
Wyoming State Veterinarian Dr. Dwayne Oldham said USDA Animaland Plant Health Inspection Service officials have made it clear that for Wyoming to obtain class-free status, it must institute a dealer registration program.
"That's a deal-breaker," Oldham said. "If we don't do that, they probably will not give it to us."
APHIS Area Veterinarian In Charge Dr. Bret Combs said Oldham is correct. He said, "APHIS' position is that Wyoming will not get its class-free status back until there is a dealer-registration law in place."
"Some other recommendations have some negotiating room," Combs said. "The one point that's not negotiable is the dealer registration."
Several past reviews have recommended Wyoming institute such a program, but Wyoming didn't take action after the recommendations were made in 1997 or 1998, Combs said. Proposed legislation instituting the program failed during the Wyoming legislative session earlier this year as well.
A dealer-registration law would require that people who deal in cattle for a living keep adequate records to allow for faster and more accurate trace back of cattle movements.
This became a major issue when a Boulder-area cattle herd was found to be infected with brucellosis in late 2003. Trace back work revealed that cattle from this herd had gone to a feedlot in Washakie County. The cattle in that feedlot then became the state's second infected herd, leading to Wyoming losing its class-free status. Further trace back work was then needed to find all cattle that had left the Washakie County feedlot.
"It took us weeks longer than it should have," Combs said, to find the cattle, "because we couldn't get the information sooner."
"Dealer registration would require these guys who are trading in cattle and bison for a living to keep records so we can find these animals when we need to," Combs said.
Oldham said while the law failed in the past because people don't like the idea of more government regulation, the issue needs to be addressed.
"It would be a tremendous asset to us when it comes to trace-out of animals," Oldham said. "It's important."
At a Wyoming Brucellosis Task Force meeting in Pinedale this fall, House District 22 Representative Monte Olsen of Daniel, also a member of the task force, said while he doesn't much like the idea of more regulation either, if it helps Wyoming get class-free status back, he'll support it.
The joint agricultural committee agreed to sponsor a dealer-registration bill for consideration by the Wyoming Legislature. That bill has already been drafted and is prefiled as Senate File 15.
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