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May 05, 2011 7:26 am

EDITORIAL: Unified front against brucellosis necessary

Written by Tessa Schweigert

Raising and selling cattle in the Powell area got more complicated this week. As of Saturday, Powell and surrounding Park County areas are part of a “designated surveillance zone” for brucellosis, meaning more stringent requirements for testing and vaccinating cattle.

While adding the rest of Park County to the surveillance zone isn’t surprising, it’s a new headache for many. Livestock producers must properly identify all cattle before moving them out of the surveillance zone, which now adds all of eastern Park County to the Big Horn County line. Cows 12 months old or older must be tested for brucellosis 30 days before being sold or moved out of the DSA.

That’s just the Reader’s Digest version — livestock producers at a recent Powell meeting were given a complicated set of legal guidelines spelling out all the specifics of zone regulations they now must meet. We understand that expanding the designated surveillance area helps protect the entire state’s brucellosis-free status, thereby also protecting the marketability of Wyoming cattle. Yet we also understand that the new expanded zone greatly impacts local producers on a daily basis.

To aid local livestock producers who find themselves in the new DSA boundaries, the state of Wyoming must continue funding reimbursements for testing and vaccinating cattle. While the Legislature committed funding for reimbursements, some worry if those funds will be maintained. Continuing the reimbursements will be vital in coming years, especially with the expanded surveillance zone. The time and effort of meeting the new DSA regulations already brings new costs for local producers, and they shouldn’t be expected to bear the burden alone.

As they comply with new regulations, many producers want to know what wildlife officials are doing in this fight against brucellosis.

That seems like a fair question.

Wyoming’s livestock industry is ready to battle the disease in cattle, and the Wyoming Department of Game and Fish, U.S. Department of the Interior and the National Park Service must work to gain control of brucellosis in elk and bison herds.

Last year, three Park County herds were quarantined after testing positive for brucellosis, and the infections likely came from migrating elk herds.

Brucellosis further complicates management of elk in the Greater Yellowstone region, where predation has resulted in significant decreases in herd numbers.

While identifying and fighting the disease in migratory elk and bison is difficult, it’s important that wildlife officials work to eliminate the “reservoir” of the disease in Greater Yellowstone herds.

Brucellosis may never be entirely wiped out, but the hope is to manage the disease through cooperation among wildlife and livestock officials so states can maintain their “brucellosis-free” status.

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