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Green River Valley Cattlemen’s Association meets in Pinedale

Written by Cat Urbigkit
Pinedale – Bernie Holz of the Wyoming Game and Fish Department (G&F) gave an update on the brucellosis pilot project to last weekend’s annual meeting of the Green River Valley Cattlemen’s Association.
    Holz said the recently completed third year of the elk test-and-removal pilot project was successful in trapping 345 of the 545 test-eligible cows on the Muddy Creek and Fall Creek elk feedgrounds. Of the trapped cows, 42 were seropositive (12 percent). At this point, it is unknown what number were actually culture positive.
    Next year and the year after, the program will be expanded to a third feedground. After the fifth year of testing, the program will be concluded and evaluated as to its effectiveness in reducing brucellosis rates and risk of disease transmission.
    Holz also reported that G&F is feeding about 16,700 head of elk on the state’s 22 elk feedgrounds, all in located in western Wyoming, this winter. With the long-term average being 13,400 elk on winter feed, this winter the numbers are above average. In addition, the agency started several additional emergency elk feeding operations to keep elk out of cattle herds (in the Buffalo Valley near Jackson and three in the Star Valley region).
    Brucellosis rates may not be as closely tied to feedgrounds as commonly believed said Jim Schwartz of the Wyoming Livestock Board (WLSB), noting that an aborted elk fetus in Park County tested positive for brucellosis.
    Assistant State Veterinarian Dr. Jim Logan followed up this report by noting that the latest Wyoming Game and Fish Department data found that in some drainages around state (Clarks Fork, Gooseberry drainage) elk seroprevalance rates appear to be on the increase.
    “As I look at that one at first blush, it makes me really, really nervous.” Logan said. “I suspect that we’re going to be changing the surveillance area, to enlarge it somewhat.”
    Logan also talked about the shortage of veterinarians nationwide, noting that the crunch is being felt locally as well. One bill pending in the Wyoming Legislature would help pay for some of the education for veterinarians who are willing to practice in remote areas.
    Another important bill would pay for brucellosis surveillance testing on cattle herds.
    Daniel rancher and WLSB member Albert Sommers told GRVCA that there is currently a push to eliminate brucellosis testing at livestock auction barns statewide, something of real concern to local producers in this intensively watched area.
    Sommers said that one concern he has is that eliminating the salebarn testing would draw less attention to the brucellosis issue on a statewide basis. He said western Wyoming needs to keep the issue at a statewide level of interest, “or else we get forgotten about.”
    On a separate issue, Sommers noted that animal welfare is becoming a huge issue in Wyoming. He said that the WLSB “is basically in charge of all ‘dumb animals’ and although it is an issue to a certain extent locally and even more so in more populated areas of the state.
    “How far this will go is yet unclear,” Sommers said, questioning if the WLSB should be in charge of boa constrictors on the loose in Rock Springs, in addition to 30-year-old horses next to a highway, both of which have raised animal welfare issues.
    Sommers questioned where the line should be located between local animal control officers and WLSB regulation, and added, “Sometime soon, I hope, the state better define what those responsibilities are, without putting the onus on brand inspectors.”
    Sommers also voiced concern that if more responsibilities are placed on the state’s brand inspectors, “I worry that the burden will cause the good ones to leave.”
    “Who will replace them?” he asked, hoping that it would not be people who could run a computer, but not read a brand.
    Sommers also touched on the imposition of the National Animal Identification System (NAIS), generating much discussion against the proposal. Sommers was thanked for his hard work on the WLSB, and asked to continue in efforts to keep salebarn brucellosis testing.
    Cat Urbigkit is a correspondent for the Wyoming Livestock Roundup.