Montana's brucellosis status downgraded
Will Wyoming soon follow?
by Cat Urbigkit, Pinedale Online!
September 4, 2008
Montana's brucellosis-free market status has now been officially downgraded by federal animal health officials. According to a release from the Montana Department of Livestock, Montana is now Class A.
Dr. Marty Zaluski, state veterinarian for the Montana Department of Livestock, said the downgrade comes as no surprise.
"Everyone knew this was coming," Zaluski said. "This just makes it official."
Montana had been brucellosis-free since 1985, but the disease was found in a Bridger cattle herd in May of 2007. Per APHIS rules, the state had to remain brucellosis-free for 24 months after that discovery to maintain Class Free status. The process of downgrading Montana’s status was initiated in June 2008 after a cow in Paradise Valley was found to be infected with the disease.
Zaluski said the department has been working on a brucellosis action plan, and will reapply for Class free status as soon as possible, on May 27, 2009.
"We’ve been working internally, as well as with individual producers and producer groups, to develop a comprehensive brucellosis plan," he said. "No one is happy about losing our brucellosis free status, but we’re optimistic that, by working together, we can develop practical approaches that reduce the risks of transmitting the disease to cattle."
The plan will include, among other items, vaccination of livestock, improved animal traceability and disease surveillance, and increased emphasis on maintaining spatial and temporal separation between livestock and wildlife known to carry the disease. The Montana Board of Livestock has also directed the department to create a brucellosis task force.
The department will additionally be working with state and federal wildlife managers to address disease concerns related to wildlife. Zaluski said more information is needed on the prevalence of brucellosis in Greater Yellowstone Area elk.
The downgrade means Montana’s livestock producers will, at a minimum, be required to test all sexually intact cattle over 18 months of age within 30 days of export. Exempt from the testing requirement are cattle sent directly to slaughter, from certified brucellosis-free herds and from ranch of origin to an approved market facility. These requirements are similar to those in place in western Wyoming's brucellosis surveillance area.
Wyoming may soon join Montana in the loss of class-free status. Three more head of cattle from a Daniel herd tested seropositive for brucellosis, and the time period for a decision on the fate of the herd is drawing near.
Should the Daniel producer decide to keep his herd, Wyoming's status will be downgraded, although Sublette County producers point out that since they already undergo vigorous testing and surveillance requirements, the end result will be no change in this area. If the producer allows his herd to be sent to slaughter, then Wyoming maintains its class-free status – at least unless a second infected herd is found within a year.
The infected Montana cattle herds are believed to have contracted the disease from elk, which is also suspected to be the case in the Daniel incident, although no information about the epidemiological investigation have been released at this time.