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Animal Health

Brucellosis rules on hold

Written by Jennifer Womack
Daniel herd depopulated, additional testing ongoing
Casper – Wyoming’s Chapter 2 Brucellosis Rules won’t be amended until later this year or early next year.
    During the Oct. 9 Wyoming Livestock Board meeting in Casper, board member and Gillette rancher Eric Barlow said, “A lot’s going to happen the next two to three months. Let’s postpone this while this current scenario plays out.” Fellow board members agreed and voted unanimously to table the rule changes until additional information becomes available. Wyoming’s existing Ch. 2 brucellosis rules remain in effect.
    In the meantime the bleeding of cattle for brucellosis testing continues to take place in western Wyoming. Throughout October and into early November cattle potentially exposed to brucellosis will be run through the chute and tested for the disease. A second finding would result in the loss of Wyoming’s “class free” brucellosis status.
    Wyoming’s state veterinarians and WLSB members also continue to work to update and improve the rules and regulations surrounding brucellosis management. A special management zone encompassing parts of Idaho, Montana and northwest Wyoming could be created and addressed through a site-specific management approach.
    “I worry all this will do is ease the burden on the bureaucracy, but do nothing on the ground in the Greater Yellowstone Area,” commented board member Albert Sommers of Sublette County. He emphasized the age at which testing is required upon change of ownership needs to remain at 18 months. He also said producers should be given a more workable test out option by the federal government when addressing the disease in their herds. When depopulation is necessary, Sommers said producers should be paid an amount that allows them to restock their ranch.
    Assistant State Veterinarian Dr. Jim Logan outlined potential changes under consideration for the federal rules. Among them would be an alternative so ranchers facing the disease aren’t forced to make the decision between depopulating their herd and compromising the state’s “class free” brucellosis status. There may also be more flexibility on the number of brucellosis cases that can occur within the zone so long as they’re discovered prior to cattle leaving the area. Another change would allow producers to adult vaccinate for brucellosis without first having to bleed and test their cattle for the disease.
    Wyoming Stock Growers Association Executive Vice President Jim Magagna, who attended the most recent meeting between state veterinarians from Idaho, Montana and Wyoming, said every herd in the designated area would undergo a risk assessment. Based on that assessment the producer would choose how to move forward in terms of management. “Not every herd needs an annual test,” said Magagna.
    “The intent is to maintain free status for Idaho, Montana and Wyoming while providing some benefits to those within the zone,” said Logan.
    WLSB Director Jim Schwartz said the agency would look to the legislature for a supplemental budget in 2009. Within that request, portions of which have already received the Governor’s support, will be dollars to help cover the costs associated with management practices like spaying. Capital improvements, like fencing, to help curb commingling didn’t receive the Governor’s preliminary support because of questions surrounding the constitutionality of such projects. Wyoming’s constitution doesn’t allow the awarding of funds to individuals unless public benefit can be displayed. WLSB officials believe public benefit, given state ownership of the wildlife carrying brucellosis, is present.
    Sommers said it’s important to continue pushing efforts to establish funding sources. “For the people who want to try projects to reduce the risk of commingling, we need a way to encourage them,” he said.
    “This whole effort is an intermediary step,” said Magagna of the larger effort to establish a better vaccine. He said momentum is building for vaccine research.
    Additional discussions about the federal rules will take place later this month when the U.S. Animal Health Association meets in Greensboro, N.C. Oct. 23-29. Conversations about the future of the rules, although details are limited, are also ongoing within the USDA Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service. With all three states in agreement, changes could occur as early as December 2008 or January 2009.
    Jennifer Womack is managing editor of the Wyoming Livestock Roundup and can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..