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Montana loses class free brucellosis status, import regs tighten

by Wyoming Livestock Roundup

Casper – Wyoming producers could sympathize with Montana as news came June 9 that the state had discovered its second herd containing brucellosis-infected cattle, which will result in loss of their class free brucellosis status.
    “I will be requiring all test eligible cattle, sexually intact cattle over 18 months of age, from Montana to be tested and individually identified with official identification prior to entry starting June 11,” said Wyoming State Veterinarian Walt Cook. Cows from Montana had previously been allowed to enter the Wyoming and then be tested at auction barns prior to sale.
    According to the Montana Department of Livestock, the Montana cow came from a Paradise Valley ranch.
    Montana State Veterinarian Marty Zaluski said the loss of brucellosis free status is particularly frustrating given efforts by livestock producers and the industry to mitigate risks and increase disease surveillance.
    “Montana has been following the Interagency Bison Management Plan,” Zaluski said. “Producers in the Paradise Valley have been involved and diligent, and they have taken it upon themselves to be proactive in regard to managing the risk of brucellosis transmission. In this particular case, the owner did everything right. The cow had been vaccinated twice and was part of a herd management plan.”
    With the loss of Class Free status, Montana’s livestock producers will now be required to test bulls and non-spayed females, 18 months of age or older, 30 days prior to interstate movement.
    “In terms of numbers, it will be somewhere in the $5 million to $6 million range,” said Myles Watts, livestock economist at Montana State University in a quote appearing in the Billings Gazette. “The biggest impact is probably going to be for testing animals 18 months and older, about $15 a head for culled cows, and we sell about 220,000 to 240,000 culled cows a year.”
    In May 2007, the disease was discovered in a Bridger cattle herd, and two herds, totaling 301 cows and 284 calves, were depopulated as a result of that outbreak. Per USDA-Animal & Plant Health Inspection Service regulations, the state had to remain brucellosis-free until July 2009 to maintain its brucellosis-free status. Montana had been brucellosis free since 1985.
    The soonest Montana can apply to regain class free status is one year from the date the last reactor was killed, or May 27, 2009. At that time, APHIS will conduct a review and hopefully restore the state’s class free status.
    All other animals in the herd where the positive was found have tested negative for brucellosis. Herds with links to the herd where the infected cow was found will be placed under quarantine unless, or until, they are whole-herd tested.
    Zaluski said federal indemnity funds are available for depopulation, should it become necessary.
    Jennifer Womack is managing editor of the Wyoming Livestock Roundup and can be reached at

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