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Progressive sheep production: WWGA meeting provides producers important updates

by Wyoming Livestock Roundup

Casper – The Wyoming Wool Growers Association (WWGA) met Dec. 13-15 in conjunction with the Wyoming Stock Growers Association Winter Roundup.  

Producers in attendance gained great information from the Progressive Rancher Forum, including topics such as the sustainability of grazing and soil health, succession planning, how to conduct interviews and successful onboarding of new employees and managing grazing animals without fencing.  

Specific to the WWGA meeting and sheep producers, attendees received updates from the American Sheep Industry Association’s (ASI) Animal Health Committee Co-Chair Dr. Cindy Wolf, the prevalence of M. ovipneumonnia in Alaska and the correlation to Wyoming’s wildlife, Wyoming Game and Fish Department’s Director Brian Nesvik, sheep industry promotion and direct marketing e-commerce.  

Health update 

Wolf, a veterinarian based in Minnesota, shared there will be some major changes for the way producers are able to purchase medication and treat illness in their herds.  

“Government agencies are making it necessary to have relationships with veterinarians,” she said, noting as a vet and a sheep producer, she has spent many years promoting the sheep industry to veterinarians and working to increase the number of veterinarians interested in sheep production on a large scale.  

“The Food and Drug Administration has put information out that in order to reduce antibacterial resistance in humans and livestock, they are going to require injectable antibiotics to be by prescription only,” she said. 

Wolf shared it might be tough for both producers and veterinarians alike to source antibiotics, especially as backlogs of certain products have been created.  

“As an example, I’ve heard through the grapevine that a company producing penicillin is working to relabel the product as by prescription only, which is a potential reason for backorder,” she said.  

In addition to establishing a working relationship with a veterinarian, Wolf recommended producers write – or work with their veterinarian to create – treatment plans for common illnesses, such as respiratory diseases. This way, she noted, veterinarians can provide distance authorized prescriptions.  

M. Ovipneumonia interactions 

Dr. Robert Gerlach, the Alaska state veterinarian, shared information regarding the respiratory bacterium M. ovipnemonia with producers in relation to complex livestock-wildlife interaction issues.  

“This is a complex issue, and domestic livestock and wildlife interactions, with response to predation, habitat competition and now pathogens have increased the merit for attention,” he explained. “Around 60 percent of pathogens are zoonitic, including: brucellosis, tuberculosis, tick-related rabies, and a big one, respiratory issues, as they are population limiting.”  

Gerlach noted these issues brought into light by animal interactions can threaten wildlife, including endangered species, livestock and public health through food production and food security, as well as the overall economy.  

In relation to Bighorn sheep, Gerlach shared respiratory disease in general is a complex issue. While conservation groups connect habitat fragmentation – which he noted is beyond much control – other issues include genetic susceptibility to disease and increased human interaction with hunting and tourism.  

“Outbreaks have been sporadic, but M. ovipneumonia causes failure in lamb survival, decreased growth rates and coughing,” he explained. “Many people attribute wild sheep to having lower resistance, but maybe this is correlated with genetics and other environmental stress factors.” 

Averi Hales is the editor of the Wyoming Livestock Roundup. Send comments on this article to 

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