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Animal Health

‘Class Free’ status hinges on November tests

Written by Jennifer Womack
Boulder – Wyoming won’t lose its “Class Free” status as the result of a brucellosis-infected cow discovered at a Nebraska slaughter plant earlier this month. The cow, along with 17 others from the same herd, was sold via a livestock barn direct to slaughter.
    Wyoming State Veterinarian Walt Cook told attendees at the Sept. 16 Governor’s Brucellosis Task Force Meeting in Boulder, Wyo. that the Nebraska plant collected the backtag and eartags from the cow at slaughter. The lab in Kansas that processed the cow’s blood sample, however, misplaced those tags. While Cook said the cow was likely infected, additional testing can’t be carried out in the absence of a carcass. “The carcass is gone by this time and we can’t do additional tests,” said Cook. “It is possible this is a false reaction, but I think that’s pretty unlikely because the titer was really high.”
    The cow’s herd mates, numbering 1,600, are grazing federal allotments until early November. At that time the index herd, along with two herds that share the allotment, will be bled. As a result of the common allotment, Cook said the USDA Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) is treating all three herds as if they are one.
    A smaller portion of the herd from which the cow originated is grazing in the Boulder area and were to be be tested on Friday.
    USDA APHIS Area Vet In Charge Bret Combs said Wyoming’s Class Free brucellosis status hinges on a second case within a two-year period of the infected herd recently discovered at Daniel. “Presently we’ve got one infected herd,” said Combs. “If the herd at Bondurant turns out to be an infected it’s an automatic.” At that time the federal government would take the steps to downgrade Wyoming from “Class Free” to “Class A” as it relates to brucellosis. “If that herd tests negative we’re at one and we’ve got whatever time is left on the two-year period.”
    Cook also told the group that the infection might be correlated to a neighbor who doesn’t own cattle and had intentionally fed elk since the 1970s, an activity Wyoming law currently allows. Last year, following an elk injuring one of his horses, the individual decided he no longer wanted to feed the elk. Game and Fish has since been working with him to remove elk from his property during the winter months. Cook said the case points to the dangers of feeding elk and to the dangers of suddenly shutting down such feeding operations.
    With support from the Wyoming Livestock Board and the Wyoming Game and Fish, legislation will be pursued at the upcoming legislative session to make the intentional feeding of elk illegal. Earlier unsuccessful efforts have more generally addressed wildlife, but by narrowing the legislation supporters hope to have better success.
    As leaders from the WLSB and APHIS left the Tuesday meeting they were destined for a two-day conference in Denver at which the rules and regulations governing brucellosis were to be addressed. Among the sought-after changes will be a more workable “test out” option for producers. Requirements that a herd be depopulated to avoid a state losing its Class Free status also lack support in the more modern scenario of wildlife to livestock transmission.
    Task Force members also voted to pursue $200,000 from the Wyoming Legislature to support vaccine research. Ranchers say inadequate vaccines are now one of the biggest challenges in combating the disease. Private companies have expressed little interest in pursuing such research. By week’s end Governor Dave Freudenthal had endorsed the budget request that would be handled via the University of Wyoming College of Agriculture.
    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..