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WLSB Seeks Continued Cooperation by Big Horn and Sheridan County Producers

by Wyoming Livestock Roundup

By Jim Logan, Wyoming State Veterinarian

Over the past three years, brucellosis has been found in elk in Wyoming Game and Fish Hunt Areas 39, 40 and 41 in Big Horn County, which is outside our brucellosis Designated Surveillance Area (DSA). 2013 was the first time the disease had been found outside of the DSA in Wyoming, which is significant. 

The Wyoming Game and Fish Department has increased surveillance on hunter-killed elk in the herd unit on the Bighorn Mountains and may soon be undertaking some additional studies to determine elk movement patterns. With the disease known to be in elk in that area, there is potential risk of exposure and transmission to cattle herds. If transmission occurs and the disease infects cattle, it would result in herd quarantine and would require increased management to enable testing and quarantine release. 

The Wyoming Livestock Board (WLSB) is monitoring the situation closely and has asked cattle producers in this area to continue to participate in voluntary brucellosis surveillance testing in their herds. This helps producers and WLSB capture baseline data, which is vital to management and control of any disease. It is also important that testing is done before calving season or late gestation to determine if brucellosis has entered the herd through exposure from elk since the disease is spread in a cattle herd at the time of birthing events, either through abortion or full-term delivery. If infected cattle are found and removed before calving, the risk of intra-herd spread is greatly reduced. 

Testing in this area will also help show other states that Wyoming is doing adequate surveillance to assure that our cattle herds are free of brucellosis.

Many producers have had cattle tested since the WLSB first requested the voluntary surveillance in 2013. The WLSB and I would like to thank those producers for their efforts in protecting Wyoming’s brucellosis-free status and also for protecting their own herds. We encourage all area producers to continue conducting voluntary testing in their herds until they can determine the true risk from potentially infected elk in the area. This could be through herd testing at pregnancy testing time, testing cull cows, testing adult female cattle that are sold for breeding and having cattle sold through a market tested at the market.

The WLSB will reimburse veterinarians five dollars per head for brucellosis surveillance testing in Big Horn and Sheridan Counties, just as it does for testing within the DSA. This is a mechanism to help producers protect their herd’s health and also protect marketability with other states. If adequate progress in volunteer surveillance testing is not apparent by the end of 2015, the WLSB may establish surveillance testing requirements for Big Horn and Sheridan Counties.

For further information on risk assessments, concerns or surveillance planning, please contact myself or Thach Winslow at 307-857-4140 or Bob Meyer at 307-777-7515. 

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