CHEYENNE, Wyo. — The Wyoming Livestock Board next month will decide whether to expand the designated surveillance areas for control of brucellosis to all of Park and Lincoln counties.
Brucellosis was recently found in two cattle herds and one bison herd in Park County, said Wyoming State Veterinarian Jim Logan. Wild elk were the source of the disease.
At present, only the part of Park County west of U.S. Highway 120 is in the surveillance area, along with all of Sublette and Teton counties and northern Lincoln County.
The recent Park County brucellosis cases were found in the current surveillance area within the county.
The livestock board had a policy in the past to vaccinate and test cattle statewide for brucellosis. The program was abandoned because it was too expensive and, moreover, cattle outside of Yellowstone National Park were and are at low risk of contracting the disease.
Brucellosis causes pregnant cows and other animals to abort their fetuses.
Logan said he is in the process of studying new information from the Wyoming Game and Fish Department on some elk movement patterns in the surveillance area.
He said he doesn’t want to expand the area any more than absolutely necessary to avoid a major impact on cattle producers.
“But, at the same time, I don’t want a case of brucellosis showing up outside the area where we’re doing our surveillance,” he said. “That wouldn’t be good for our trading partners and our marketability.”
In recent years, the Legislature has appropriated a bit more than $1 million for the two-year-biennium for brucellosis vaccination and testing.
Quite a bit of the money reverts to the state general fund because the livestock board doesn’t usually spend all of it.
The livestock producers still must get the cattle into corrals for the vaccinations and testing by a veterinarian, but the state pays the fee.
In the past, if the state had two outbreaks of brucellosis in a one-year period, the entire state lost its brucellosis-free status — meaning all cattle in Wyoming had to be tested before the animals could be shipped out of state.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service adopted a temporary rule that says, if a state conducts proper surveillance in its designated area, it does not have to test in the rest of the state.
“That’s been a huge help,” said Jim Magagna of the Wyoming Stock Growers Association.
Logan said the livestock board meeting is tentatively set for April 5 and 6 in Cheyenne.
Bison in the Yellowstone Park area are heavily affected by brucellosis but so are elk, Logan said.
“We are fortunate we don’t have much problem with the Yellowstone bison coming out into areas in Wyoming where we have cattle,” he said.
The Game and Fish Department is responsible for management of wild elk. Logan thinks the diseased elk should be put down, but the department lets them go.
Meanwhile, a new report issued in Montana said the animal disease zone around Yellowstone Park is saving cattle producers elsewhere in that state between $5.5 million and $11.5 million annually in avoided costs for disease testing.
The Montana Department of Livestock report, issued Friday, says only 3 percent of the state’s 1.4 million cattle are within the zone created last year to manage brucellosis.