From the pages of
Sublette Examiner
Volume 6, Number 25 - September 14, 2006
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Brucellosis-free status regained

by Cat Urbigkit

Wyoming’s brucellosis-free status was restored Tuesday, loosening restrictions placed on Wyoming producers by the federal government and following 18 months of work by a statewide task force. What effect the status change will have to local livestock producers has yet to be determined.

Boulder rancher Joel Bousman, a member of the task force, said he anticipates there will be some restrictions remaining on western Wyoming cattle. Bousman said while federal requirements will lessen, he anticipates that the Wyoming Livestock Board will require increased levels of surveillance for the disease in western Wyoming cattle herds.

An interim rule upgrading Wyoming’s status was made effective by the US

Department of Agriculture Tuesday and will become official when it is published in the Federal Register, which should take place within the next several days. It will then go out for public comment.

Bousman said: “Of course it’s good that Wyoming got its status back, but I hope that attention to brucellosis doesn’t fade away.” Bousman said to be effective, the effort to keep transmission from wildlife to cattle must be maintained.

Governor Dave Freudenthal, who appointed most of the Wyoming Brucellosis Task Force membership in early 2004, said he was delighted by the USDA action and looks forward to the rule’s publication.

“It is a tribute to the brucellosis task force and the others around the state who worked to make this effort successful,” the governor said. “It also demonstrates the importance of the producers, hunters and Game and Fish in the eastern and western parts of the state working and staying together so that we can retain statewide brucellosis-free status.”

Dr. Frank Galey, dean of the University of Wyoming College of Agriculture and chairman of the state brucellosis task force, called the change “very good news” and said a lot of hard work went into making it a reality.

“We have had really great collaboration in dealing with brucellosis in Wyoming,” Galey said. “Ranchers, the Game and Fish Department, the governor’s office and administration, the legislature, the University of Wyoming, the state veterinarian and the Wyoming Department of Agriculture, among many others, are involved. We must continue now to focus on managing this disease for the future in order to maintain our new, hard-won status.”

Many western Wyoming ranchers have worked with animal health officials to create and institute cattle herd management plans that include management practices designed to reduce the risk of disease exposure from elk and bison. While few of the plans are completed, there are many currently in the development process. Another new addition to Wyoming’s arsenal in combating brucellosis is the creation of brucellosis management action plans for western Wyoming elk herds, which prescribe actions and management practices aimed at reducing brucellosis. These combinations of plans, for both cattle and wildlife, were designed to help Wyoming regain and retain its brucellosis-free status.

Brucellosis is a bacterial disease that causes cattle, elk and bison to abort their calves. It also causes reduced birth weight and generally poor reproductive health in livestock. It is possible, though rare, for the disease to be transmitted to humans, causing undulant fever and various long-term health effects.

Wyoming lost its class-free status in early 2004 when a second brucellosis-infected herd was found in the state. When two or more infected herds are found in a state within a two-year period, that state cannot maintain its brucellosis-free status. At the time, Freudenthal called the status downgrade a “powerful blow to Wyoming’s livestock industry” and noted that the state’s next step was to do what it could both to help producers and to ensure that class-free status was restored as soon as possible.

Essentially, the requirements for states with Class A status are that all test-eligible cattle shall be tested for brucellosis within 30 days prior to change of ownership. If cattle were going directly to slaughter from the farm or ranch of origin and the identity of the herd of origin is maintained, they were exempt from this test requirement.

Regaining class-free status is based on a state carrying out all requirements of the brucellosis program and finding no cases of brucellosis in cattle and domestic bison for 12 months. The upgrade in status effectively lifts federal testing requirements for livestock shipped out of state, but state requirements determined and enforced by the Wyoming Livestock Board remain in place.

The United States is almost entirely free of brucellosis in cattle. Upon Wyoming’s upgrade in status, only Idaho and Texas remain as states affected with cattle brucellosis. Both Idaho and Texas are designated as Class A.

Former state veterinarian Dr. Jim Logan of Riverton said “very definitively it’s a very good thing for the livestock industry.” Logan said he believes the Wyoming Brucellosis Coordination Task Force, of which he is a member, played a big role in getting protocols in place that led to the state regaining its brucellosis-free status and will be key to maintaining that status.

“It’s taken a lot of hard work to get here and a lot of involvement from multiple state and federal agencies to achieve this status,” said current State Veterinarian Dr. Dwayne Oldham. “We still have a lot of hard work ahead of us to maintain the status, and it’s important that we pursue good management practices and don’t become complacent. The brucellosis task force will continue to be a good vehicle for keeping these discussions on the table.”

Jackson rancher Brad Mead said, “I think it’s great news but it shouldn’t diminish our efforts to make sure we don’t lose it again.”

Mead said he’s taking a wait-and-see attitude about the programs in place to combat brucellosis in Wyoming, including the pilot elk test-and-removal taking place at the Muddy Creek elk feedground near Boulder. Mead said he has “cautious optimism” about the future.

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