WLSB, state vet ask for ‘brucellosis notice’ feedback
Joy Ufford photos
SUBLETTE COUNTY – Charged with fulfilling a legislative order to “establish a communication protocol” to notify livestock owners about brucellosis testing results, Wyoming Livestock Board (WLSB) Director Steve True, State Veterinarian Dr. Hallie Hasel and Assistant State Vet Dr. Teckla Webb returned to Pinedale on Oct. 24 to continue earlier conversations.
They had met with ranchers and veterinarians in Pinedale back in June during the WLSB’s spring meeting. Ranchers at the June meeting asked for quicker communication protocol for the State Vet Lab to notify a DSA producer of possible “nonnegative” animal’s blood test result.
House Speaker Rep. Albert Sommers, a Pinedale rancher, had worked on House Bill 180 that once proposed WLSB sending press releases to notify relevant producers, vets and brand inspectors of the test results in three days.
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.
They discussed how herd plans can benefit Sublette producers, who have encountered “nonnegative” blood test results for brucellosis – either in their herd or in adjacent herds.
DSA ranchers must vaccinate certain cattle types at certain ages before they are sold outside the DSA and have a veterinarian send current blood samples to the state lab for complex testing. A “nonnegative” result often holds up shipping to market or could even result in one or more “whole herd quarantines.”
True opened the Oct. 24 meeting by pointing out language changes in the final House Bill 180 – Enrolled Act 54 – language, which took effect July 1, that require WLSB to work at getting a flexible but confidential policy, especially to inform producers within a very short time period so livestock trucks aren’t held up or shipping dates canceled.
First, the language calls for WLSB to “establish a standard communication protocol to inform livestock producers, veterinarians and brand inspectors in the (DSA) within the county where a non-negative brucellosis test has been confirmed for any animal,” True explained.
“This is our second shot to get your feedback around what fits into the bill,” he said. “We’re driven by law to establish protocol.”
Hasel said flexibility needs to be built in to the protocol and WLSB cannot use a different protocol for each situation.
True pointed out regarding producer confidentiality, WLSB “may” release any information about a confirmed non-negative brucellosis test in the county where it is located – “to the extent the information is useful in controlling or preventing a disease outbreak.”
The press release language was deleted.
“Non-negative results within three days – we’re already doing that, notifying the vet and the owner,” True said. “All of this is active law – we’re just still establishing protocol.”
Present were about a dozen ranchers, one brand inspector Mike Vickrey and three vets – Drs. Glen Millard, Tim Rutar and Nikki Marincic Weaver.
Vickrey is a rancher and president of the Green River Valley Cattlemen’s Association; manager Coke Landers was also there as president of the Upper Green River Cattle Association that runs in common on the Green River Drift.
Many questions related to real-life situations were fielded by Webb, Hasel and True.
What the questions narrowed down to, though, was specific to Sublette County – timing of calf-hood and cow vaccines, with calving overlapping with preparing to turnout cows for breeding.
If non-DSA cattle are brought in for grass, Hasel advised veterinarians if they don’t know if females are vaccinated, “give them vaccines.”
Local vets will talk with producers with a non-negative result. The State Vet’s Office will contact a neighboring producer if needed; no call means the neighbor is fine as is, according to Hasel.
Brand inspectors have confidentiality issues, True said. Sublette ranchers should not call local brand inspectors like Vickrey. “Their first response, in my mind, is, ‘Did If no call, you’re good.your vet call you?’ To my mind that’s what a brand inspector’s response is. I want to protect their ability to not share that information.”
Landers said, “Almost 98 percent of us run on a common allotment. Mine (UGRCA) has 11 producers. Mike is going to know some of that information before I do.”
True repeated that Vickrey “can’t make that decision and he’s bound as an agent of the state to not talk.”
“You guys can say what we can and can’t do but on the ground we just need to react,” Landers said.
Vickrey stated many local people called him and other brand inspectors about a recently past non-negative situation “because they don’t trust” the state lab or state veterinarian offices to provide necessary information quickly.
“That is true,” a man agreed.
However, both Dr. Millard and Dr. Rutar said they’ve had excellent service when looking for blood-test results for their clients.
“(Producers) need that information the next day,” Vickrey said. “That’s why I said from Day 1 we need a state veterinarian here on the ground.”
What’s in it for us?
Sublette producers asked questions about how brucellosis testing and the DSA affect or inhibit their marketing or shipping to other states.
Hasel said state vets talk with each other “on a daily basis.”
Idaho and Montana post animal updates and years of test data on their websites; Hasel said they ask Wyoming to do the same “so they can look it up and see that we annually test 80,000 head in the DSA. They also want us to put up our rules summary.”
Hasel added of this meeting, “We have not talked about this anywhere else; this is the first time.”
True asked how enough flexibility could be built into a protocol to to deal with DSA non-negative results and shipping delays “on this side of the mountain?”
“Seasons are extremely short in Sublette County, logistically” Landers said. “We’re trying to all ship out in October. Time is of the essence.”