2009 General Session a busy one for Wyoming Livestock Board
Cheyenne – It was a busy session for the Wyoming Livestock Board with numerous pieces of legislation related to the agency’s funding, authority and duties.
New funding wasn’t gained for the agency’s brucellosis program, but the agency did earn broader authority to help ranchers in areas where the wildlife carries the disease. “Because we won’t be testing cattle at every market after the new Chapter 2 Brucellosis Rules go into affect,” says agency director Jim Schwartz, “we anticipate some additional dollars to become available that could be used for adult vaccination, spaying and testing in the Designated Surveillance Area.”
The DSA, or that area where the rules surrounding prevention of brucellosis in cattle are more strict, encompasses all of Sublette and Teton counties, the portions of Lincoln County north of the Bridger-Teton National Forest boundary, Fremont County west of the Wind River Indian Reservation and the western half of Park County with Highway 120 serving as the dividing line. According to Schwartz, funding opportunities will be limited to those producers who’ve completed a herd management plan or a producer facing quarantine following discovery of brucellosis in a cattle herd.
“We’re estimating we’ll have in the vicinity of $400,000 that would have went to testing low risk cattle that we can put toward adult vaccination and spaying,” says Schwartz. While rules remain to be written, he doesn’t envision the agency paying to spay feeder heifers that enter the area for summer grazing. Offering one example of an application, he says a rancher who runs heifers over as feeder cattle may qualify.
“We’ll be working on rules and will submit a first draft to the Livestock Board on April 2,” says Schwartz. “At that time they’ll set the amount of money the WLSB can obligate in concert with having a herd plan in the DSA to show public benefit.” When working with public dollars on private land, a display of public benefit is required for constitutionality reasons. Board members will also be asked to set the per head rate they’re willing to pay for spaying.
The WLSB was also successful in adding a field veterinarian to its present veterinary staff comprised of State Veterinarian Walter Cook and Assistant State Veterinarian Jim Logan. Schwartz says after talking with Cook, it appears the vet will be located in Park County. “We’ll open it up for applications and try to get somebody on board as soon after July 1 as we can,” says Schwartz. “We’re excited to have a field vet to help us with all of these issues.”
In lieu of a request for an information technology specialist, the agency was granted $45,000 to assess its IT needs. “We need to do a business analysis to make sure we’re heading in the right direction and staying current with the most current technology out there,” says Schwartz. In the meantime, he says he doesn’t have the resources necessary to distribute and set up the laptop computers that were purchased for the state’s brand inspectors.
In other legislation this session, the agency saw its request to remove goats, llamas and alpacas removed from the brand inspection program denied. They did expand their authority to recoup costs when aiding with emergency events like traffic accidents.
The 2010 Budget Session could prove equally as busy for the WLSB. Interim study work to be carried out by the Joint Agriculture, State and Public Lands and Water Resources Interim Committee includes topics of great importance to the agency.
According to the interim study overview document released by the Wyoming Legislature in the final days of the session, “The Committee will review and consider strategies for brucellosis management, the potential for long-term vaccine studies, bio-laboratory applications and new methods of delivery of vaccines to wildlife.”
They’ll also be looking at “the need for pet animal care and facilities and will consider the responsibility of the Wyoming Livestock Board in managing pet animals.” Current statute assigns authority over “all dumb animals” to the agency. It’s a designation that some have said needs to be narrowed.
“I think it’s going to be a huge issue,” says Schwartz. “We’ve got to be proactive and figure out how to protect animal agriculture and our rodeo industry.” In the meantime, it’s an area of the statutes that he says warrants some attention.
Jennifer Womack is managing editor of the Wyoming Livestock Roundup and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.