Brucellosis rules revampedWritten by Jennifer Womack
Park County added to ‘surveillance area’
Casper – Wyoming livestock producers and interested parties will soon have the opportunity to submit public comment on a revised version of Wyoming’s “Chapter 2 Vaccination Against and Surveillance for Brucellosis.”
Meeting in Casper Aug. 11-12, members of the Wyoming Livestock Board (WLSB) went through the brucellosis rules one section at a time and had lengthy discussion on how Wyoming can best protect its cattle against the disease. As the discussion came to an end, the board decided against seeking emergency implementation of the rules via the Governor’s office. Once revisions approved at the two-day meeting are implemented in the draft document and the board has a chance to make final review, the rules will go out for public comment. Board member Albert Sommers, a Sublette County rancher, expressed several concerns with the rules throughout the discussion and voted against the revised Chapter 2 rules.
One aspect of the rules, the inclusion of Park County in the surveillance area, will be sought as soon as possible through a separate emergency request. It will also be part of the pending revisions once they’re finalized. Park County’s inclusion comes on the heels of testing that revealed a higher-than-expected incidence of brucellosis among area elk. Park County ranchers could be included in the surveillance area in the very near future and likely before fall shipping season gets underway. Ranchers in the area would operate under current Chapter 2 rules until the pending revision is finalized.
Key to changes made in the pending Chapter 2 revisions was a reduction in the age at which sexually intact females leaving the surveillance area must first test negative for brucellosis prior to a change in ownership. Now at 18 months, the age will be reduced to 12 months if the recommended changes are met with final approval. Advocates of the reduction, including Gillette veterinarian, rancher and WLSB member Eric Barlow, pointed out that some of the cattle testing positive for brucellosis in 2004 and earlier this year at Daniel were younger than the 18-month age currently put forth in the rules.
“You’re not going to eliminate all risk,” said Sommers, noting the change will be a hardship for producers in his area. “It’s onerous for those of us over there. Every yearling female that’s not spayed will have to be tested.” He said that would include those destined for the feedlot.
Western Wyoming brand inspector Gary Zakotnik echoed that remark, saying the reduction in the age at which testing is required could limit market opportunities for area producers.
Sommers argued the current 18-month age results in the testing of breeding cattle, but allows feeder heifers to leave the area without what may be an unnecessary test. Barlow said there’s no way to ensure heifers that enter the feeding channel remain there.
Producers statewide will also see an expansion of the regulations under which they operate. All females must carry an individual identification tag prior to change of ownership. This can include an orange brucellosis tag, a blue spay tag or an approved RFID tag - something that may soon be funded by the federal government for use in the surveillance area.
Breeding cattle sold within the state or across state lines must also have a test proving they’re free of the disease within the 30 days prior to a change in ownership. Those cattle must also be vaccinated for brucellosis unless they’re destined for immediate slaughter.
Discussion of the Chapter 2 rules built on a more general discussion of brucellosis in the three-state area. It was during that discussion that WLSB members said they won’t pursue use of Strain 19 vaccine for the state’s livestock producers. Sommers, who brought a motion that died for lack of a second, said he believes the now-used RB51 vaccine provides less protection than the historically used Strain 19. False positive cattle resulting from the use of Strain 19 have caused the federal government to step away from its use although Brett Combs, area vet in charge for the USDA Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, said his agency does produce a small amount of the vaccine for use in wildlife.
Responding to reluctance toward using the vaccine, Sommers countered that in his lifetime there’s never been a false positive Strain 19 vaccinate originate from his family’s ranch. He said he knows one neighbor that had two false positives. While use of the vaccine may have historically been costly to the government as it traced out the false positives, Sommers said allowing use of the vaccine within the surveillance area would be a less costly scenario.
Board members also agreed to look to the Wyoming Legislature for additional flexibility in spending the dollars they receive to address brucellosis. Currently limited to reimbursement of brucellosis testing costs, there’s a desire among board members to be able to provide cost share for water developments, fences, corrals or other items that may aid in the preventing of elk and cattle commingling.
It was also agreed to increase the rate at which field veterinarians can be reimbursed for brucellosis testing from the present $3.50 per head to $5 per head in the surveillance area.