WLSB meets ranchers, vets about brucellosis in Pinedale

Joy Ufford photo

SUBLETTE COUNTY – The Wyoming Livestock Board and State Veterinarian Dr. Hallie Hasel met up in Pinedale on a very rainy Tuesday morning, June 20, to discuss cattle-brucellosis issues, approve rules and review the budget.

Area ranchers, brand inspectors and veterinarians attended the meeting with luncheon hosted by the Green River Valley Cattlemen’s Association, represented by president/ rancher/ brand inspector Mike Vickrey.

Sublette County producers are in the Wyoming brucellosis designated surveillance area (DSA) around Yellowstone where wild elk and bison with brucellosis can commingle with cattle and domestic bison and transmit the disease.

WLSB Director Steve True gave updates on aspects of administering Wyoming’s DSA to maintain its brucellosis-free status for other states to accept DSA cattle.

Ranchers need to coordinate shipping with vets for timely blood tests and brand inspectors for health forms, staff and board members acknowledged.

Agenda

True said full-time eligible brand inspectors will be earning an 8.5-percent raise after a previous “straight dollar raise” to start new brand inspectors with better pay. Full-time inspectors will also receive access to state benefits.

Veterinarians’ compensation for certain DSA brucellosis vaccinations and bloodwork will be raised as well, True said.

WLSB needs a new website and a new IT system with an interactive site where people can fill out forms online, he said, estimating $50,000 for the website and $120,000 a year for the system. Both were approved.

True said the new animal health operating system could connect vets, producers, brand inspectors and the Wyoming State Vet Lab to fulfill Dr. Hasel’s legislative requirements.

She gave a “quick elevator talk” about the proposal – vets can load health inspections into the computer for almost immediate receipt at her office.

Now, staff create spreadsheets; the new program will extrapolate eartag data collected over years, she explained. “It’s a night and day difference.”

Herd plans

Assistant state vet Dr. Teckla Webb reviewed DSA herd plans for brucellosis risk assessment and mitigation, which must be renewed annually in northwestern Wyoming. A computer analyzes a herd’s risk of exposure to elk, feedgrounds proximity and herd management and assigns a “risk level.”

Herd plan recommendations such as 100-percent calf vaccination are updated every year “and are not set in stone,” Webb said. But a whole-herd quarantine is far less likely if the producer has an up-to-date WLSB herd plan, according to Webb and Hasel. 

‘Protocol’

Debate among the WLSB and attendees focused on quicker communication “protocol” for the State Vet Lab to notify a DSA producer as soon as possible about a possible “non-negative” (a positive or “suspect”) animal’s blood test result.

House Speaker Rep. Albert Sommers, a Pinedale rancher, started working on House Bill 180, for a press release to notify relevant DSA producers, vets, brand inspectors of nonnegative results within three days, True said. HB 180 is changing with input and not everyone seemed happy with it.

“That is requiring us to release a nonnegative’s preliminary test; those preliminary results could change,” Dr. Hasel said.

True said his main concern is a producer’s right to confidentiality and WLSB’s own rules. “The protocol has to be within those guidelines.”

Vickrey put on several hats during the meeting. If people hear about a possible nonnegative in the county, people start calling him as a brand inspector asking what to do. He often doesn’t hear from the state vet’s office, he said. Many herds share fence lines, allotments and shipping timeframes that complicate delivery.

“I’ve fought for 20 years for the State Vet’s Office and WLSB to give (brand inspectors) a head’s up,” he said. “When somebody finds out they’ve got a nonnegative it spreads like wildfire. We need someone here (in the DSA) to coordinate.”

Eden Valley brand inspector Gary Zakotnik said vets and ranchers call him to find out what’s going on. “I do not have a clue.”

Vet Nikki Marincic Weaver added, “It’s embarrassing when I have to say I haven’t heard anything.”

Another vet, Tim Rutar, suggested such important information should be directed at the herd owner and his or her veterinarian.

Dr. Hasel said this bill would require her office to release news within three days; she would rather wait until the federal APHIS lab confirmed a positive result.

True said the WLSB needed to “be circumspect” in revealing timely information. Hasel asked about sending a press release to vets and brand inspectors several hours in advance of making news public.

“As a cattleman in Sublette County, I want (test) information. Now,” Vickrey said. Sometimes it takes days for blood samples to be tested, he said.

Rancher Steve James of Daniel said the protocol discussion “might make a simple thing more complicated. If you get a positive, the only people that need to know are the owners. If (the lab) knew within an hour, contact the vet and owner as soon as possible and the whole rest could be eliminated.”

Vickrey said, “This (designated surveillance) area – we’re keeping everybody else brucellosis free.”

Dr. Hasel asked if there is a time limit for Sommers’ proposed protocol.

True said there is not – but he wants more input and plans more local get-togethers. WLSB also approved changes to Chapters 6 and 25.

The Wyoming Livestock Board’s next meeting is in Rock Springs on Aug. 22.