USCA proposes wildlife herd reductions
by U.S. Cattlemen's Association
June 23, 2008
On Monday, June 9 state and federal animal health officials confirmed the presence of brucellosis in a suspect cow located in the Paradise Valley of Montana. Days later, two additional cases of the disease were confirmed near Daniel, Wyoming. Further testing shows another thirteen head of cattle in the same Daniel herd have been exposed to brucellosis.
The U.S. Cattlemen’s Association (USCA) said today that it is calling upon the Department of the Interior and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to reduce bison and elk numbers within the Yellowstone National Park to numbers consistent with forage availability and to work with affected states to undertake an aggressive long-term brucellosis eradication program in the Greater Yellowstone Area.
"The epidemiological investigation into the source of these outbreaks must be completed before all the facts are known," said Jon Wooster, USCA President, San Lucas, Calif. "However, the proximity of these disease outbreaks to the park is a signal that a proactive plan is needed. The bison and elk herds within Yellowstone National Park are this nation’s last reservoir for bovine brucellosis, which puts those wildlife herds and surrounding domestic livestock at grave risk. Montana and Wyoming cattle producers have done all they can to manage the disease, but are at continued risk because of exposure to infection from wild bison and elk. It’s time for the Department of the Interior to undertake an aggressive management program that will eradicate this problematic disease once and for all."
In May 2007, brucellosis was discovered in a Bridger, Montana cattle herd. Under USDA regulations, the finding of the most recent case will cause the State of Montana to lose its brucellosis-free status. Wyoming’s class free status will be compromised if the disease is found in another herd or if the Daniel rancher declines to depopulate his entire herd within 60 days of the finding. When a state loses its class free status, producers are required to test sexually intact cattle. Wyoming cattle herds that have had fence-line contact, have grazed in common with the infected herd, and any bulls sold from the infected herd will be tested for the disease.
Bison numbers in the Greater Yellowstone Area exceed forage production, causing over-grazing and migration of infected bison, elk and moose from the park’s boundaries. "Cattle producers have worked for more than half a century at enormous cost to eradicate brucellosis in cattle herds across the country," said Chuck Kiker, Beaumont, TX, USCA’s Animal Health Committee chairman. "One of the greatest risks of infection for cattle today is exposure to infected ruminant wildlife. Evidence demonstrates that the region surrounding Yellowstone National Park is a hot bed for brucellosis outbreaks. Obviously, we need an aggressive management approach that will result in total eradication of this disease."
"It is readily apparent that Wyoming and Montana cattle producers have been diligently proactive with regard to managing the risk of brucellosis transmission." added Wooster. "Herds associated with the infected cattle are under quarantine until whole-herd testing is completed. The consequences of these outbreaks are severe for the live cattle industry in both of these states. USCA will monitor this situation closely to ensure that appropriate and just indemnification is awarded to owners of affected herds and we will work to encourage federal and state officials to undertake a long-term plan that will shield Montana and Wyoming cattle producers from disease risk."