From the pages of
Sublette Examiner
Volume 6, Number 38 - December 14, 2006
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Brucellosis hearing mixed bag

by Cat Urbigkit

In revising the state’s brucellosis rules, the Wyoming Livestock Board ignored specific recommendations of the Wyoming Brucellosis Coordination Team.

That’s what Daniel rancher and brucellosis team member Albert Sommers told Wyoming State Veterinarian Dr. Dwayne Oldham at Tuesday’s public hearing on the rule revisions.

Sommers quoted the team recommendation that “The amended rules shall mandate the testing of all test-eligible female domestic cattle and domestic bison that are over the age of 24 months on change of ownership and premises. Mandatory testing shall continue for a period of three years after the state achieves Class-Free brucellosis status again, at which time the state’s brucellosis surveillance program shall be reviewed by the Wyoming Livestock Board.”

The rule revisions don’t follow that recommendation. Sommers said in promulgating the rules, the board “ignored the task force recommendation” he had cited.

Sommers also pointed out that the brucellosis task force had unanimously agreed that the state should not be split, with special requirements for certain portions of the state. The rule revisions ease testing requirements on all but six counties of the state.

Sommers was one of several speakers who said that whatever the final rules require, the added testing requirements should only be in place for a set period of a few years – a defined sunset is needed, so the program could be reassessed.

In mid-September, the USDA Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service reclassified the State of Wyoming as “Brucellosis Free,” eliminating many of the federal testing requirements for Wyoming cattle when they are sold or move out of the state.

As a result, Chapter 2 Rules are now being amended to address this reclassification. Specifically, the rules have been amended to reduce testing requirements for Wyoming cattle prior to a change in ownership or an interstate movement. However, six counties (Lincoln, Hot Springs, Fremont, Park, Sublette and Teton) are still subject to the testing requirements.

According to the WLB, these six counties have been recognized by APHIS as being areas of concern for brucellosis and, at least for now, APHIS wants WLB to continue testing these cattle before they move across state lines or change ownership.

The WLB also added an amendment requiring testing if cattle leave the six-county area, “to ensure that animals are not moved out of the six county area and subsequently sold or moved out of state.”

WLB also added a subsection requiring (with two exceptions) testing of all cattle at sale barns. This was deemed necessary by APHIS to ensure some level of surveillance for the disease, according to WLB.

Lastly, WLB also added an exception to the testing requirement for cattle from herds with a valid herd plans in place. According to the rulemaking notice issued by WLB, herd plans will provide individual producers with the option of developing plans for their herds that would relieve some of the burden imposed on people in the six-county area.

Big Piney veterinarian Bob Beiermann asked about the reported plans for a reduction in the amount of brucellosis testing required at sale barns. Oldham indicated that since cull cows are bled at slaughter, the backtag program already covers them.

Beiermann responded that if there is going to be a reduction in testing requirements, he would rather see the reduction occurring on the premises of the livestock producer, and not at the sale barn.

“I think all the sale barns in the Rocky Mountain West should bleed all cows,” Beiermann said.

Victor Mack Jr., who runs cattle down Farson way in winter and the Hoback Basin in summer, said in his view, it’s a bad idea to partition out part of the state for treatment, and added he was against a reduction of testing at sale barns, concluding: “For heavens sake, continue.”

Sommers said he does support having all sale barns having to test all test-eligible cattle, as well as the rule provisions providing for a testing exemption for cattle herds with approved herd plans in place.

According to a joint letter from Sublette County cattlemen Sommers and Joel Bousman, both members of the Wyoming Brucellosis Coordination Team, the revised regulations provide that “surveillance requirements in the herd plans will be adequate for change of ownership without further bleeding requirements.”

“One careless rancher, not knowingly, can bring in brucellosis. One slip up is all it takes. Everybody should test, regardless of the herd plan,” said Paul Saunders of Bondurant.

Daniel cattleman Jon Boroff suggested the rules be revised to remove the six-county area exemption. He said in making a small area subject to greater requirements, the area was being isolated.

“We’ve already met the qualifications, but no sunset is included in the rules. We have to know when this thing is coming to an end,” testified Daniel rancher, Doug Vickrey. “We have done what we had to do to get the state’s brucellosis free status back.”

Written comments on the proposed rules may be submitted to Dr. Walter Cook, Wyoming Livestock Board, 2020 Carey Avenue 4th Floor, Cheyenne, WY 82002, Attention: Cynthia Sandoz, Rules Coordinator.

The comment period closes Jan. 8, 2007.

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