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Change the Rules

Written by Dennis Sun
        For the last couple of weeks we’ve all been watching the brucellosis issue in the Daniel area. “I am glad it’s not me,” and, “I sure feel for the family whose ranch the disease was found on,” have often been spoken in the agricultural community in recent weeks.
     We all feel bad for the family who owned the infected cattle and now must deal with the decisions that follow. That family has some unfair decisions to make in the next 60 days, decisions that affect the entire state and don’t necessarily make a lot of sense. Those decisions shouldn’t have to be made by the family, or anyone for that matter.
    The rules we live by to manage a brucellosis outbreak were developed long ago to curb transmission from cow to cow. That’s fair enough and through the years the guidelines were sufficient to eradicate the disease from most of the U.S. Those of us who ranch in the states surrounding Yellowstone National Park, however, now live under different circumstances.
    The Greater Yellowstone Area, with its elk and bison, is a region with an occurrence of brucellosis we now must manage for. We all know it is there; how it got there is history and no longer important to today’s debate. We have two new issues to deal with – how to stop the disease from spreading from wildlife to cattle and how to develop and administer effective vaccines for wildlife and cattle.
    We also need exceptions to the current federal rules for managing brucellosis in Wyoming, Idaho and Montana. Changing the rules will take too many years, more time than we have to wait. It is really unfair to ask the Daniel family to depopulate their herd. That family is the only one in Wyoming right now that can say for sure that their herd is brucellosis free. They’ve tested more recently than any of us. If they keep the herd, they need to continue testing. If they are forced to depopulate, and then purchase new cattle, the same will be true. Nothing stemming from the decision they’re being forced to make will help curb the occurrence of brucellosis in Wyoming.
    I hope that our governor, through his Brucellosis Task Force, will ask the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) to make an exception to the brucellosis rules. It’s an exception that should apply to the Daniel family now facing a difficult decision and others that may face similar such choices in the future.
    The Brucellosis Task Force has done an excellent job to date. We need their help again as we seek rules and regulations that apply to the scenario at hand. When brucellosis strikes again it shouldn’t ruin a ranch or force someone to sell out, but allow us to move one step closer to improved management and an end goal of ending transmission of the disease from wildlife to livestock. If a ranch is forced to sell out for development because of brucellosis, the loss of open spaces costs wildlife and the livestock industry alike.
Dennis