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Recreational cattle imported from Mexico may be one of the biggest culprits of bovine tuberculosis (TB) infections in the U.S. While the disease isn’t widespread in this country, it can be devastating for ranches with infected cattle. 

“The risk, as a whole, is low in the U.S., but it is still possible to buy cattle from an infected herd – and not just from Mexico. We still have sporadic outbreaks,” says Wyoming Assistant State Veterinarian Bob Meyer. 

Pre-purchase testing

Cattle producers are encouraged to test breeding cattle before purchasing them. 

“We can also reduce our risk by keeping a closed herd as much as possible,” he says. “If we are buying cattle and putting groups together, know the source.” 

“If we don’t, we are increasing our risk,” he adds.

Meyer tells producers they should be cautious when commingling cattle. 

“The U.S. brings in about a million steers each year from Mexico for feeding,” he explains. “Most of those go out for grazing. We also get about 10,000 steers a year from Mexico that are used for roping. These cattle come to the U.S. with a negative TB test but not all cattle infected with TB respond to the test.” 

“They start out as a roping steer, then they are a dogging steer, and then they are fed out in a feedlot,” he says.

Rodeo risk

Bucking bulls can also become infected from being commingled with the Mexican roping cattle. 

“Rodeo cattle can be a risk. That is why some states require additional TB tests on recreational animals,” he says. 

Most states require a health certificate, a permit and a negative TB test within the last 12 months to bring recreational cattle into a state.

Meyer tells producers that if they have a few roping cattle, they should be segregated from the beef breeding herd. 

“I have heard about people throwing a couple of old roping steers in with their replacement heifers, and then, they end up with a TB problem,” he states. 

Historic presence

TB has been in the U.S. since the early 1900s. The industry, state and federal government got together to develop a plan for totally eradicating TB, but more than 100 years later, total eradication has been elusive in this country. 

“TB is a public health issue,” Meyer says. 

People can contract TB from drinking raw or unpasteurized milk. It is also zoonotic, meaning it can be spread from animals to humans and vice versa. 

Inside the disease

“TB is a chronic bacterial disease than infects humans, the avian population and bovine,” Meyer explains. “It has a long incubation period, and those infected may never actually show clinical signs.”

Without clinical signs, Meyer says cattle can easily spread the virus to other animals through the air when they sneeze or cough or orally through feed, water or milk. Cows can also spread TB to their calf through their milk. 

“TB is primarily a respiratory disease, but it can impact the lungs, bone and other organs,” he says. 

In children in Central America, TB can cause them to become hunchbacks because it can impact the spinal cord.

Humans are vaccinated in countries where the disease has high prevalence. 

“Vaccination doesn’t really do a good job preventing TB, but it does do a good job preventing the clinical symptoms,” he says. 

In cattle, there isn’t a vaccine because it causes the animals to react to future TB tests, Meyer adds. 


Meyer reassures ranchers the disease doesn’t spread through casual contact but through repeated, continuous contact or commingling. 

“It is more likely in conditions of crowding and stress, like in the larger dairies,” he says. 

TB can be in the lymph nodes or lungs, and when the cattle cough, it disperses millions of organisms that can impact the herd, Meyer says.

“It impacts the respiratory tract and lymph nodes and can progress over several years. Lateral infections are possible, and may become active if the immune system is compromised by stress,” he explains.


Diagnosis in live cattle is possible with a skin test, although Meyer admits it isn’t 100 percent accurate. 

“At best, the skin test is only 85 percent effective finding infected animals. About 15 percent can be infected, but it doesn’t show up on the test. We repeat the tests to catch the cows that are incubating the disease. Some cows can also be anergy, meaning they have a lot of disease, but they also don’t respond to the test. It may not be the best test, but it is the best we have today,” he says. 

During a skin test, tuberculin is injected at the base of the tail. Three days later, the veterinarian will come back to read it. 

“They feel for a response or some type of lump,” Meyer explains. “Some cows will have large responses and a lot of disease, while others have a minimal response and a lot of disease.”

“Often, there are no signs. I’ve seen very fleshy first-calf heifers with the disease,” Meyer says. “Many times, we don’t see the symptoms until the advanced stage of the disease.” 

Without clinical signs, TB may not be diagnosed until slaughter, and the meat will be condemned. 

“The main way we find TB is when cull cows go to slaughter. The federal inspectors find suspect lymph nodes and send them to a lab for more evaluation,” he explains. 

When the disease is diagnosed in a live herd, the only cure is complete total eradication.

“We have to depopulate all the animals, so we don’t miss one,” Meyer says. 

Gayle Smith is a correspondent for the Wyoming Livestock Roundup. Send comments on this article to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Hight Proffit’s roots are in agriculture, according to his family and many who knew him. While he was born as a farm boy in North Carolina, Proffit’s impact to the Wyoming agriculture industry is profound. Hight passed away in 2002.

“Hight came to Wyoming in 1935 during the Great Depression, at 24 years of age, and he became addicted to the wide open spaces and rural atmosphere of the West,” writes his son Don. “Hight and his wife Dorothy Marsh Proffit then established a ranch with the help of the Federal Land Bank on the Bear River, where they raised cattle, sheep and horses, as well as four children.”

Ag involvement

While running the ranch, Hight’s skills as a teamster and masterful ability with mechanics led him to create a push rake out of a Model A Ford that was the first of its kind in the Bear River Valley. 

“His reputation as a superb handyman was earned, as he seemed to keep everything running,” Don continues. “Hight recognized ranching required many skills one must learn, and he also realized that success on the ranch was facilitated by a wife.” 

Dorothy worked in town as a schoolteacher, and Hight was often credited for saying, “She taught so I could ranch.”

As the ranch continued to develop, Hight was integral in helping to bring electric power to the Bear River Valley and bringing irrigation to his meadows and pastures. 

“Hight was a master irrigator – coaxing water to the arid areas of his meadows and pastures,” Don explains. “He did not have a good pioneer water rights, so he had to hone the skill of using and re-using available water.”

Hight was involved in the negotiation of the Bear River Compact, as well as Sulphur Creek Reservoir Founder’s Committee. 


Service was also important to Hight, and he served on the Governor’s Land Use Advisory Committee, Wyoming State Agriculture Board, University of Wyoming College of Agriculture Advisory Board and as a Farm Bureau Charter Member. 

In addition to his ranching work, Proffit served in public office for many years, including as a Uinta County Commissioner for 24 years and Wyoming Legislature, in both the Senate and the House of Representatives, for 10 years. 

Hight was actively engaged in Uinta County and as a County Commissioner, earning his recognition as Outstanding County Official in Wyoming and Wyoming Association of County Officials Outstanding Member. 

“Hight did not plan on a career in politics,” says Don. “It just evolved as neighbors encouraged him to use his sensible ideas and natural service instincts to enter the County Commission race. He discovered a great fondness for public service and dealing with people in solving problems.”

Hight’s wife Dorothy praised her husband for being to the point without being insulting or making others mad, and he enjoyed using this skill to solve problems. 

Community organizations

While Hight was active on the ranch and in serving as a public leader, he also took time to mentor young people, serving 50 years on the Troop Committee and on the Eagle Board of Review for the Boy Scouts of America. 

He was also a long-time 4-H leader and mentor.

“Throughout the years, Hight and his family were deeply involved in community activities, including 4-H, scouting, Farm Bureau, church activities and politics,” says Don.

“The optimistic spirit and willingness to serve made Hight and his family leaders in the community and friends to all,” Don continues. “His hard work, progressive ideas and good neighborly attitude proved them an integral part of the community and state.”

Hight will be honored during the Wyoming Agriculture Hall of Fame picnic, set for Aug. 15 at 5:30 p.m. at Riverside Park in Douglas. Dave True will also be inducted into the Hall of Fame during the event. Call 307-234-2700 or e-mail This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. for more information. 

With abundant information about water, restoration, projects and more, Brady Allred says, “The goals of all of our work is to actually put it on the ground, make it work and implement it.” 

“Another goal is to follow those conservation projects through time to see if they’re successful, see if they’re working and see if they do what we want to do,” Allred says. 

Allred, who works with the Sage Grouse Initiative (SGI), overviews how Google has created a platform called Google Earth Engine, which provides a planetary platform for earth observation analysis.

“Basically, Google Earth Engine is millions of processors that can be used to analyze any type of remotely sensed imagery,” Allred says. “We’ve been partnering with Google to utilize these services to do a lot of research projects that can inform and help management of conservation efforts but also to build spatial targeting tools and evaluate outcomes.”


One particular project utilizing the engine is mapping annual U.S. rangeland cover from 1984 to 2017. 

The study looks at annual forbs and grasses, perennial forms and grasses and shrubs, as well as their continuous cover. 

“The service allows us to merge all this data to see a landscape point of view,” Allred said. “Another thing we can do with this tool is track changes in plant functional groups through time. All of this is possible because of the processing power that we’re leveraging.” 

Online application

Because of Google’s unique ability to translate information on services to online platforms, Allred says SGI has developed a web application at that allows Google maps interface to be overlaid with data from SGI. 

“Many of our projects are spatially oriented and can be used in projects,” Allred explains. 

The application allows users to turn on and off a number of layers from datasets in SGI’s database. Both wildlife and ecosystem layers are available. Additionally, datasets can be overlapped with satellite imagery to provide an on-the-ground overview of that dataset in a specific area. 

“Immediately, using these tools, we can draw our eyes as to where to target future work and where we might have the most success,” Allred says. “For the practitioner, people can go in and use these tools to help them decide if a particular area might provide opportunities for a project or if efforts should be targeted elsewhere.” 

“These resources are all publically available,” Allred comments.

Continuing to grow

Additionally, harnessing the power of Google, Allred explains he is able to easily update the resource without cumbersome effort. 

“I was able to update the map for 2017 in less than two hours because of the computational power offered to us by Google,” he says.

An additional capacity of the tool is found through the ability of individuals to upload their own data to be integrated into the resource.

“By using custom analysis, users can tailor the data to what they are looking for,” Allred comments. “When we do this, the application goes out to our services and brings back the information.”

Users can also upload their own shapefiles to the database, and Google is able to aggregate the data relevant to that region and provide the data, overlaid with a region.

“The local knowledge is still important,” Allred adds. “These big, broad scale analyses aren’t recommendations for anything, but instead, they are tools for practitioners to go in and see the history of an area. We want to empower people with data to make decisions.”

On the ground

“We can use this tool to see if practices are working or if things we’re doing on the ground are working,” Allred comments. “Now, we can look at this progress on the web on our own. We don’t have to reach out to agencies and scientists to see if what they’re doing is working.”

Moving into the future, Allred notes SGI plans to develop more web applications where users can provide data and get a customized result for their projects. 

He continues, “The computational power and storage available has finally caught up to our ideas, so we can see the result of our work immediately.”

Allred presented this technology at during the Society for Range Management’s Annual Meeting in Sparks, Nev. on Jan. 30. Saige Albert is managing editor of the Wyoming Livestock Roundup and can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

There is still optimism for higher cattle prices as beef cowherd numbers continue to shrink in North America and the country recovers from drought. 

“If the U.S. economy will grow at least three percent, I believe the U.S. consumer will continue to purchase beef, rather than pork or chicken,” according to Jim Robb, director of the Livestock Marketing Information Center. “However, if the economy only grows one percent, pork and chicken are going to take more of our market share.”


Despite a slow growing U.S. economy, demand for beef is still improving at the consumer level. 

“Consumption keeps going down, but consumption is not the same as demand,” Robb says. “It is really only half of the story. Demand per person is actually improving, but it has been doing that through the price side, not the quantity side,” he adds.

Beef exports have been strong the last two months, which Robb attributes primarily to Japan. 

“Japan’s change towards accepting animals under 30 months of age, instead of 20, has really helped the U.S. export market,” he says. “The key is they are buying it in restaurants, not the grocery stores. Restaurants have started using sliced beef on top of their dishes instead of pork bellies, like they were using. That was a very positive switch for U.S. beef.”

With smaller cattle numbers and record high cattle prices, the U.S. consumer, like everyone else, is reacting, Robb continues. 

“The domestic market will be the driver,” Robb notes. “Imports are going up a little bit. They went up this year because Australia and New Zealand have a bit of a drought. Those countries are completely forage-based, so they just start selling when there is a drought.”

Shrinking supply

It is not only the U.S. that sees shrinking cowherd numbers. 

The Australian cattle herd is shrinking again after two years of growth, and herds in New Zealand and Europe are only maintaining their numbers. Although some herds in South America and Canada are seeing slight increases in numbers, Mexico is shrinking significantly. 

“We usually import 1.8 million head of feeder cattle into this country each year from Mexico,” Robb says. “We are running below last year’s numbers.” 

Mexico has suffered from the same drought as the one that struck the Southern Plains. 

“In a two year period, comparing 2012 to 2014, we are probably going to get a million head fewer Mexican feeder cattle than in 2012. They have a much smaller calf crop, which is a big deal,” Robb states. “They have mined their cowherds to the point they no longer have the cows they had, and they sold their replacement heifers, spayed their heifers and sold their lightweight calves. They are going to have to buy U.S. beef because they have decimated their cowherd.”

Canada also has a 25 percent smaller herd than they had in 2005. 

“The driver in the cattle business in North America today is the U.S.,” Robb states. “Canada and Mexico are not periphery players in the cattle business now like they were a few years ago.”

Heifer replacements

However, Robb doesn’t see beef output in the U.S. increasing before 2017. 

“Look at the biology of the industry,” he says. “First we have to slow down heifer and cow kill and save back some replacement heifers.” 

It looked like the industry was doing just that when USDA released their cattle inventory report Jan. 1 this year, he said. The report showed that producers had saved back 1.9 percent more heifers than they had the previous year. 

However, Robb says looking at heifer slaughter numbers since then, it is obvious to him that those heifers that were supposed to be saved back as replacements have already been slaughtered. 

“As of mid-year, it is clear that the beef cow herd has shrunk even more,” he says. 


Beef production numbers have stayed up because higher numbers of cows were slaughtered during the drought. It is a trend that won’t continue, Robb notes. 

“In 2014, cow-beef production will be down over half a billion pounds,” Robb reports. “Fed cattle beef production will be down nearly one million pounds. This is going to be a huge decline in cow and beef production in this country.”

Robb sees the 2013 to 2014 market as much different than last year. 

“The fed cattle market has been on a steep incline that is going to slow down,” he explains. “Last year, we had high cow kill numbers because of the drought, not only in the U.S. but also in Australia and New Zealand.”

“If we can keep the fed cattle market at the $130 to $134 mark, like the futures are saying, it will pull the cull cow prices up pretty strongly,” Robb continues. “I think the top end of cull cow prices may reach $0.90 to $0.95 per pound, maybe as much as one dollar. For a 1,300 pound cow that amounts to $1,300.”

Gayle Smith is a correspondent for the Wyoming Livestock Roundup. Send comments on this article to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

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