‘NBEZ’ proposal would create a special management areaWritten by Jennifer Womack
APHIS officials unveiled their proposal for the future of brucellosis management during the recent U.S. Animal Health Association (USAHA) meeting. A nine-page document explaining the proposal accompanied the announcement and is available for download at www.wylr.net.
APHIS calls for creation of a designated “National Brucellosis Elimination Zone” or “NBEZ,” in the Greater Yellowstone Area (GYA) encompassing portions of Idaho, Montana and Wyoming. “The establishment of this zone,” says the agency, “would facilitate the elimination of brucellosis from livestock and provide clear, consistent control and surveillance guidance to livestock producers in the NBEZ, while simultaneously allowing the balance of the United States to be considered free of bovine brucellosis.”
Implementing the plan will require a risk assessment to determine the area’s boundaries. Those boundaries would be fluid and adjusted with a change in risk factors.
Livestock producers in the area would be asked to take part in a risk assessment addressing topics like the presence of elk, management practices and biosecurity efforts. “The risk tool,” says the USDA, “will provide a standardized method for producers and animal health officials to define a herd’s risk of acquiring brucellosis, identify needed mitigation to reduce risk, conduct surveillance to assure early detection, and allow movement with confidence of a herd’s freedom from brucellosis.”
APHIS’s document says, “Livestock producers may have the opportunity to improve their herds’ risk score by adopting mitigation strategies associated with the identified risk factors. Producers within the NBEZ will use their herd risk scores to choose which herds they add to or allow to mingle with their herds, under guidelines similar to existing herd certification programs. However, a herd’s risk status will be raised if producers add from or mix with herds of a higher risk status.”
APHIS says what it describes as a tiered structure will allow states to target their resources at areas where there’s an identified risk. “Herd level surveillance will include movement testing, investigations of abortion events, and serological testing of herds. Again, the amount and frequency of herd testing required will depend on the herd-risk status.”
Wildlife is also addressed in the NBEZ document with APHIS writing, “The NBEZ concept presented here is only part of a successful approach to brucellosis elimination in the GYA. Implementation of the NBEZ requires a concurrent planning effort with many wildlife agencies including entities in the GYA.”
Asked about plan specifics APHIS Veterinary Services (APHIS-VS) spokesperson Lyndsay Griffin says, “This initial proposal is just a concept paper so states have an ability to influence the plan and how it’s implemented.” She says they want to get the states’ reactions before engaging in the deeper planning process. “We’re waiting for the states to give us feedback on if they like the plan.”
APHIS says the changes could take many months to complete with a timeline from the document accompanying this article. “Prior to publishing the official rule that will develop the zone, APHIS-VS intends to work in close partnership with the GYA States to establish the zone boundaries and concomitant standardized surveillance activities, mitigations, and movement controls….APHIS will begin working immediately to establish zone boundaries following stakeholder and partner acceptance in the NBEZ concept.”
APHIS recognizes an increased cost for the agency, but says an accurate estimate cannot be provided until NBEZ boundaries are determined and mitigation strategies developed. “Additional funds in the GYA States will be necessary,” says APHIS. “These funds will support additional field and technical personnel, vehicles, laboratory activities, travel, supplies, administrative and analytical support, producer incentives, and vaccination, among other things.”
“The overall goal is to declare the entire U.S. free of brucellosis with exception of this one region with the eventual goal of eliminating it totally,” says Griffin.