Meyer brings brucellosis, TB experience
Cheyenne – Bob Meyer was recently hired as the new assistant state veterinarian in Wyoming, bringing several years of experience as both a practicing vet and a regional veterinary epidemiologist. He says brucellosis and tuberculosis (TB) are the two diseases he’s focused on most during his career.
“I graduated from the Kansas State’s College of Veterinary Medicine in 1974, then practiced in northeast Colorado from 1974 until 1979. At that time, USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) offered me a position, and I accepted and moved my family to Arizona. I worked largely with brucellosis and TB issues, in addition to inspecting Mexican steers coming into the U.S. for feeding and animal welfare concerns during my time there,” explains Meyer.
A position in Fort Collins, Colo. caused Meyer to move back north, where he helped develop an early database tracking brucellosis herd test data nationwide. “It was really one of APHIS’s first attempts to automate the entire program. I helped with the development and implementation of that throughout the country,” notes Meyer.
Meyer then decided to return to school in Fort Collins, where he received his master’s degree in veterinary epidemiology at Colorado State University.
“I was interested in the TB field and worked all over the country, Puerto Rico and Mexico training people and developing an expertise in the disease,” says Meyer. “There have not been many TB cases nationally over the past few years, but what cases there were in cattle and other livestock I was usually involved with.”
He continued his TB work for many years, and ended his 31-year career with APHIS as a Regional Epidemiologist based in Fort Collins. “At that time BSE was starting to make front page news, and our country was wanting more surveillance to insure our trading partners that BSE was not in our U.S. livestock populations. I developed training courses for both regional and private practice vets on how to collect tissue samples for BSE and chronic wasting disease diagnosis and surveillance,” comments Meyer.
“I have never been a person who liked to continually sit behind a desk. I believe a person better understands what’s going on in the country when you get out and talk to producers and their vets and get the ‘real story’ firsthand. You have to be active to better understand and appreciate the different viewpoints.
“I’m looking forward to working with the different programs in Wyoming – especially those that are supported more by some producers than others. There are some ‘hot button’ topics that will be interesting to talk to folks about, listen to their concerns, understand their positions and then work closely with them to improve the programs,” says Meyer of his move to Wyoming.
During his first week on the job, Meyer attended the Brucellosis Coordination Team meeting in Lander and says it was a good learning opportunity.
“I found the report on the Muddy Creek feed ground pilot project interesting. Wyoming Game and Fish Department experts were able to significantly reduce the overall prevalence of brucellosis on that feed ground through bleeding cow elk and eliminating those testing positive for brucellosis – a very positive sign.
“I think the next issue will be to discuss the various options on how to proceed from here, now that it looks like it works. My takeaway from that meeting was that the next step is currently undecided, but that we have this new tool to use against the disease, and the results show it works,” adds Meyer.
Of Wyoming’s management for brucellosis in wildlife, Meyer says continued management of the disease is necessary.
“Even with the best management practices, there likely will be some elk that get into a feed line with cattle. There are just some things you can’t control 100 percent of the time. In addition to continuing those management strategies, we need to be realistic in our understanding that some co-mingling of elk and cattle is inevitable, and as long as that occurs there is the possibility of transmission of brucellosis from infected elk to susceptible cattle.
“I think another huge reason to continue our brucellosis eradication work is to maintain the marketability of Wyoming livestock. How other states see our livestock and what Wyoming is actively doing to combat the disease is important, because their perception can affect our ability to export and market cattle,” says Meyer. “We need to continue reducing the amount of brucellosis in our wildlife and continue taking steps to reduce or prevent interface so infection doesn’t occur and the marketability our livestock industry isn’t compromised.”
He adds that everyone always wants a better vaccine, and the current challenge is finding funding to develop and test it. “We have a vaccine that prevents some infections, but it isn’t completely efficacious when challenged by disease exposure in the field.”
Meyer replaces former Assistant State Veterinarian Walt Cook, who took a position with the Consortium for the Advancement of Brucellosis Science (CABS) with the University of Wyoming.
Meyer’s wife, son and daughter-in-law are all UW graduates, and he notes that attending more Wyoming football games as a family is another perk to being in the state.
“I started with a clinical practice, then switched to a more regulatory environment in addition to my work in the epidemiology field. I have always particularly enjoyed working in the brucellosis and TB fields within the livestock industry. I’m looking forward to working with producers from around the state and their local vets. It looks like there will be plenty to do,” notes Meyer.