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WLSB update: Animal health atop priority in Wyoming according to WLSB

by Wyoming Livestock Roundup

At the Nov. 16 meeting of the Wyoming Livestock Board (WLSB) held in Casper, board members discussed current topics ranging from past educational training to current animal health issues. 

WLSB President Shaun Sims called the board meeting to order, and past meeting minutes were approved and passed. 

WLSB Director Steve True gave a quick overview of his director’s report, discussing the possibility of a future rural crimes task force and the intent to change protocols involving hide inspections. He concluded his update with current legislative news.

Wyoming Brand Inspector Lee Romsa also delivered a short update on brand inspections and recording. 

“We were able to print the Wyoming brand book on time and under budget,” Romsa stated. “In the future, we will release a public announcement reminding brand owners to update their current address.”

A few state inspectors are currently at the Cheyenne Livestock Expo providing services, but the department is still looking for qualified part-time brand inspectors.

Animal health updates

Wyoming State Veterinarian Dr. Hallie Hasel updated WLSB and meeting attendees.

Hasel invited Joel Douglas, contract support at WLSB, to attend the board meeting and explain the process of brucellosis testing reimbursement. 

“For test records which meet requirements for reimbursement, WLSB will create a monthly reimbursement invoice and electronically send the invoice and test records to the veterinarian or facility for verification,” Douglas stated. 

“The veterinarian or facility will review the documents, update any changes and approve them so WLSB can process. WLSB finalizes the documents and submits the packet for payment,” he continued. “This monthly process is more time efficient and payments are processed easier and faster.”

Assistant State Field Veterinarian Dr. Teckla Webb provided the group with Sweetwater County brucellosis testing results from the December 2022 case.

“The herds started testing in June 2023 because of winter weather,” she reported. 

“It has been a tremendous group effort to get such a large number of cows tested,” Hasel added. “We are shorthanded with testing, but everyone has jumped in to help.”

Hasel relayed three U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) positions were vacated in the state and will not be replaced due to USDA budget cuts. 

Assistant State Veterinarian Dr. Rose Digianantonio presented to the group, updating them on current events state veterinarians have been involved in. 

Digianantonio coordinated a vaccine clinic at the Wind River Indian Reservation in Fort Washakie, where local cats and dogs were vaccinated and microchipped free of charge.

“Everyone who came to the free clinic was very grateful and welcoming, and it’s great to build relationships around Wyoming,” Digianantonio commented.

“We have seen two cases of bluetongue recently in Wyoming and cases of leptospirosis have been diagnosed in several dogs and one human in Laramie County,” she added.

Digianantonio explained, “Leptospirosis is a serious bacterial infection causing kidney damage and liver failure and even death in pets without appropriate treatment. The disease is passed through the urine of infected animals or contact with water or soil contaminated with their urine.”

Veterinarian shortage

According to Hasel, current veterinarians are retiring faster than new veterinarians are hired, and recruiting associate veterinarians is challenging due to increased debt and a smaller pool of candidates. 

Wyoming does not currently have a state-funded student loan repayment program, and since competing with states with a loan repayment program is difficult, Wyoming needs a veterinary medicine loan repayment program (VMLRP).

USDA’s VMLRP helps qualified veterinarians offset a significant portion of the debt incurred when pursuing veterinary medicine degrees in return for their service in certain high-priority veterinary shortage situations.

Hasel warned the group, without enough vets, the food supply chain is vulnerable to diseases, so Wyoming must address the veterinary shortage to ensure a safe food supply.

The veterinarian shortage also has a direct impact on the U.S. food supply. The agriculture industry depends on producers, and producers depend on large animal vets to keep their herds and flocks healthy.

Recent USDA data shows a veterinarian shortage in roughly 500 regions across 46 states, and a shortage in veterinary technicians creates widespread problems for the industry. 

Melissa Anderson is the editor of the Wyoming Livestock Roundup. Send comments on this article to

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