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Animal Health

Wyoming Livestock Board: minimize risk of brucellosis in livestock

Written by Echo Renner

“All three brucellosis-positive livestock herds in the Brucellosis Designated Surveillance Area (DSA) contracted brucellosis from elk, although not the same elk,” explains Wyoming State Veterinarian Jim Logan.

“Cattle do not have to be exposed to elk on-the-hoof to get brucellosis. Exposure to fluids, a fetus, or an elk birthing event within a close proximity of time can do it,” he remarks.  

Brucellosis is a highly contagious bacterial disease that can cause cattle, elk, and bison to abort their calves, and can seriously affect humans in the form of undulant fever. If producers discover an elk fetus, they are encouraged to avoid contact, secure a tarp over the site and contact the Wyoming Livestock Board (WLSB) immediately. The disease can be transferred through a fetus, placenta and fluids. The WLSB cautions producers to wear appropriate gloves and clothing when handling these substances.

“We expect to have occasional brucellosis cases in our DSA, since the last remaining reservoir of Brucella abortus in this country is in the Greater Yellowstone Area. Livestock producers take many precautions to prevent exposure to wildlife, but there are some situations that even the best management cannot always avoid,” he says.

“It you have a cow that aborts, let us know,” says Logan. “Not every abortion is from brucellosis, in fact most are not, but it protects you to have the tissues collected and tested.”  

“Your exposure to elk may not change a lot, but we can help producers develop a herd plan that can minimize that risk through a herd plan. Herd plans are 100 percent voluntary and confidential, and they are a guideline, but are not legally binding. If, in your herd plan, you specify that you’ll do something and it doesn’t work out, we can modify the herd plan,” notes Logan.

Benefits of a herd plan include improved marketability of cattle, and the WLSB will pay local veterinarians five dollars per head for testing within the DSA, and $3.50 per head to adult vaccinate and/or heifer booster vaccinate.

Yearling heifer booster vaccinations should be given at least three weeks prior to bull exposure. Cows should then be boostered every three to four years.

“You won’t gain much if you booster every year,” Logan adds. Adult vaccination should take place between calving and turn out, while the cows are open. “We need to booster cattle in the DSA, and the WLSB will pay for it if you have a herd plan in place.”

Wyoming Assistant State Veterinarian Bob Meyer says, in the event of an outbreak, boostering can help control spread of the disease within a herd, and can help clean up an outbreak faster than herds that haven’t received the booster.

In addition to the help producers inside the DSA receive from the WLSB, the Wyoming Game and Fish Department provides materials while the producers provides the labor to build stack yard fencing. Some funding for equipment, etc. to help producers in the DSA is available through USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service in some counties.

For more information, contact Wyoming State Veterinarian Jim Logan at 307-857-4140 or Wyoming Assistant State Veterinarian Bob Meyer at 307-777-6443. Echo Renner is a field editor for the Wyoming Livestock Roundup and can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..