From the pages of
Pinedale Roundup
Volume 105, Number 38 - September 18, 2008
brought to you online by Pinedale Online

Brucellosis discussed at community meeting

by Jonathan Van Dyke

Prominent members of the ranching community, state legislature and various federal agencies met at the Boulder Community Center on Tuesday to discuss a wide range of topics dealing with brucellosis and the state.

Topics ran the gamut from elk feedgrounds to potential state and federal rule changes that might facilitate positive change.

The Pinedale Roundup was present for a discussion involving several hot topics concerning brucellosis and the region.

Ranchers in this community were still eager to discuss the use of vaccinations when combating potential brucellosis outbreaks.

“It’s become obvious we’ve lost protection,” said Albert Sommers, brucellosis task force member.

Many of those present felt that there was anecdotal evidence that the currently used vaccination, called RB51, was not getting the job done in this sensitive area.

“That may be true, but we don’t have the scientific data [to back that up],” State Veterinarian Dr. Walt Cook said.

Due to certain federal regulations, scientists have not been allowed to study the effects of the newer vaccinations. Therefore, ranchers have only anecdotal evidence of failure.

For many years Wyoming ranchers used a vaccine called Strain 19. The reason Strain 19 was shelved in favor of RB51 was because it created false positives for brucellosis. Many have hoped that this region, which is already scrutinized more than the rest of the state, might be allowed to revert back to Strain 19. Cook, however, said that surrounding states would have problems taking such cattle.

“[Going back to Strain 19] has some pretty huge ramifications,” Cook added. He also said that when he probed the possibility of getting this area permission, he was told that there was a virtual “0 percent” chance of the federal government allowing its use.

Another solution might be to “boost” cattle with RB51 annually or semi-annually, which task force member Joel Bousman suggested was a possibility.

Still, Dr. Bret Combs, a veterinarian in the area for the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS), felt that ranchers might be unfairly singling out RB51, saying that “RB51 is an easy target” and that it has also been used for “years and years and years.”

For the most part, RB51 has been successful at preventing aborted cattle, the main reason for having the vaccine, Cook said. “Those other states [that wouldn’t take the Wyoming cattle], they’re basically out of [Strain 19 cattle],” Cook said.

The Daniel herd that tested about 30 brucellosis-positive cattle, only had about two or three abortions. The importance of keeping the abortion level low is to protect surrounding herds, Cook said.

While a discussion continued on, almost all those present expressed some disappointment that more research has not been done on RB51. A new vaccine is not expected to be created for five more years, at the very least.

“The vaccine should not be held hostage from a testing procedure,” Sommers said. The battle over vaccines played right into the uniqueness of this Greater Yellowstone Area. Earlier, ideas began to accumulate to a possible three-state, unique area that encompasses those places that are already sensitive to brucellosis through wildlife transmission.

“A regional approach may make more sense,” said Brad Mead, a brucellosis task force member from Teton County.

Split-state status is also a possibility, allowing the majority of Wyoming to stay with a brucellosis-free status, but marking this affected area as Class-A. State Senator John Hines, R-Campbell, admitted that such a move could take up to two years to pass through the legislature.

“We’re basically like a Class-A status [with the level of surveillance and scrutiny in this area],” Sommers said.

Cook implored all there, that if changes or ideas were to be made, that their implementation in the near future would be a necessity because it would be harder to go to governing bodies with these ideas if the latest possible positive test was stripping Wyoming of its brucellosis status under the old rules and regulations.

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