|San Lucas, California (May 22, 2007) The U.S. Cattlemen’s Association (USCA), during a board of directors meeting on Monday, May 21, passed unanimously a resolution calling on the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the Department of the Interior to undertake an aggressive, long-term brucellosis control and eradication program related to bison, elk and moose in Yellowstone National Park. The U.S. Cattlemen’s Association is urging both agencies to implement an indemnification program to compensate ranchers for losses suffered as a result of infection by wildlife.
On May 21, federal animal health officials announced a second Montana cattle herd was being tested for the highly contagious disease. The herd is located in Paradise Valley near Emigrant, Montana. If laboratory tests confirm the disease, Montana’s brucellosis-free status could be revoked and the financial ramifications to Montana’s billion dollar-a-year livestock industry would be severe.
The second suspect herd follows confirmation on May 16 that seven cows from a herd located near Bridger, Montana had been diagnosed with brucellosis.
Bison numbers within the park exceed forage production, causing over-grazing and migration of infected bison, elk and moose from the park’s boundaries. "Cattle producers have worked for more than half a century at enormous cost to eradicate brucellosis in cattle herds across the country," said Chuck Kiker, Texas, USCA’s Animal Health Committee chairman. "One of the greatest risks of infection for cattle today is exposure to infected ruminant wildlife. An investigation is underway in Montana by federal and state animal health officials, and it’s important to let that play out. However, evidence demonstrates that the region surrounding Yellowstone National Park is a consistent hot-bed for brucellosis outbreaks threatening an entire sector of the economy. It is incumbent upon the Department of the Interior and USDA to take an aggressive approach that will lead to total eradication of this disease."
Cattle infected with brucellosis have high incidences of abortion or calve weak offspring and often retain placental tissues. Bulls can carry the bacteria in their reproductive tract. The most common route of infection is through direct contact with infected animals or with an environment that has been contaminated with discharges from infected animals. Aborted fetuses, placental membranes, and vaginal discharges are all highly contaminated with the bacteria. There is no cure for the disease. Under USDA rules, infected animals must be de-populated.
In Wyoming, four herds located near the park tested positive for brucellosis in 2004, resulting in revocation of the state’s brucellosis-free status. Idaho lost its brucellosis-free status in 2005. USDA admits that the herds in Wyoming and Idaho were most likely infected by elk.
"The U.S. Cattlemen’s Association urges the Department of Interior and USDA to indemnify ranchers for losses suffered as a result of herds being infected by wildlife," noted Kiker. "The financial losses for individual ranching operations affected by this disease could be catastrophic, to say nothing of the negative economic impact on the entire livestock industry within an affected state."