Volume 5, Number 51 - March 16, 2006
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Much to the surprise of western Wyoming cattle producers, Wyoming State Veterinarian Dr. Dwayne Oldham has announced his intent to quarantine and bleed cattle that have commingled with elk in western Wyoming.
Oldham’s decision came to light recently when a Wyoming Livestock Board law enforcement officer arrived on Glenn Taylor’s ranch near Jackson and announced that the ranch’s cattle herd was going to be quarantined and bled because it had commingled with elk. Wolves had reportedly run elk off an elk feedground in the Gros Ventre and the elk ended up on the Taylor ranch about eight miles away. Trying to keep the elk from the cattle feedlines proved nearly impossible, as did getting the elk to leave in deep snow. Eventually the elk were fed in an effort to keep them away from the cattle and the Wyoming Game and Fish Department was successful in baiting the elk off the ranch. The entire issue was aired during an intense and heated meeting of the Jackson Hole Cattle and Horse Association last Wednesday afternoon, March 8.
No one was hiding what was going on in Gros Ventre, but “Everybody up here knew but us,” Oldham said.
Taylor said, “We knew we had a problem and we thought we were taking care of it.
“I’m the last guy in the world who wants to jeopardize the State of Wyoming’s brucellosis-free status,” said Taylor, a former Wyoming Livestock Board member and well-respected cattleman.
Oldham said: “If no one was hiding it and if everybody wanted to take care of it, why wasn’t it taken care of? I had to send a man up here to take care of it.”
Although WG&F may decide to move the elk in such a situation, Oldham said that’s not his concern. His concern will be increasing surveillance on cattle herds through bleeding if the commingling occurred from Feb. 1 through the spring when disease transmission is at high risk.
Oldham explained: “My situation is this: It doesn’t matter to me why they are there, if it’s the snow, if it’s the wolves ... If they’re there, as far as I’m concerned, we need to decide how long they were there and if they were there during a part of that time period, then we need to be looking at that cow.”
Oldham said that while the Wyoming Livestock Board and the rest of the livestock industry in the state has supported western Wyoming cattle producers in dealing with the brucellosis issue, “we’re going to have to assure them we’re doing everything up here in this area that we need to do.
“What’s silly is that we made a guy bleed a bull in Goshen County that had been bled 45 days before,” Oldham said. “That was silly but that’s the rule. There was probably no chance of that bull having brucellosis or even being around anything.”
Quarantining ranches because of elk and cattle commingling is a “draconian” use of the powers of the Wyoming State Veterinarian, accordingto the Green River Cattlemen’s Association and the Jackson Hole Cattle and Horse Association.
The two organizations passed resolutions that noted the intensive brucellosis surveillance program in place in the state’s livestock herds and called for the Wyoming Livestock Board to “cease and desist” the practice of quarantining cattle when commingling with elk occurs when there is no evidence of brucellosis in the cattle herd.
Oldham said he’s been asked, “What are we going to do, bleed every cow in Teton County?”
His response was, “If we need to, we will.”
In reality, the area of impact would be a large chunk of western Wyoming, not just Teton County.
Teton County cattleman Brad Mead pointed out that when cattle are moved across state lines or are subject to change of ownership, they must be bled first, and asked of the recent case in the Gros Ventre, “Is there an additional bleeding requirement?”
Oldham responded: “This will be in addition to those, yes. The call that I’ve made there – that I make – is that, in addition to that, any time there is a potential for an infectious disease, it’s our responsibility to also address it.”
Mead said he wanted to be clear: “You’re the one that’s decided to do this. You’re not mandated by statute.”
Oldham said, “It’s not mandated by that statute, but it ism andated by statute that we take responsibility” for livestock disease.
Oldham questioned: “What if you’re in Goshen County and you’re going to move your cows to another location and we quarantine them to make sure that you bleed them but yet you know that damn guy that lives right next to the feedground has elk on his cows all year and the state hasn’t quarantined him?”
Several cattlemen who are members of the Wyoming Brucellosis Task Force condemned Oldham’s action.
Boulder rancher Joel Bousman, whose herd was under quarantine for six months for surveillance with the last brucellosis outbreak and bled clean, called the quarantine a “pretty severe punishment” when what is needed in commingling cases is having the state vet sit down with a livestock producer to discuss the potential of a problem.
Pinedale rancher Albert Sommers told Oldham, “I am also very concerned about what you did,” noting that the state has started down a “slippery slope” if it plans to start quarantining cattle if a commingling event occurs.
Sommers noted that currently Wyoming is a class A state, so, “We are testing everything that is sold from our herds.” That testing program will detect brucellosis if it exists in a cattle herd, he said.
Sommers said, “Anything above and beyond that, in my opinion, as it relates to quarantine, is heavy-handed.”
Sommers said that animal health officials should sit down and work up agreements with livestock producers in high-risk areas as planned, but “using the quarantine in cases of commingling is unacceptable.”
Sommers received a round of applause for his statement.
Oldham was critical of the cattlemen at the Jackson meeting who were unaware that individual brucellosis control plans are being developed in a cooperative effort between livestock producers and federal animal health officials. He questioned, “Why not? You’re in the ranching business here. There is some responsibility there also ... How come you don’t know?”
Although the cattleman didn’t know about the herd plans,they also didn’t know that the state vet was intent on quarantining and bleeding western Wyoming cattle herds for commingling with elk.
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