Director says Wyoming Livestock Board will communicate more with producers during disease outbreaks
If comments about what a foot-and-mouth (FMD) disease outbreak would do to producers hiked collective blood pressure, the message from the director of the Wyoming Livestock Board about how his group intends to handle disease outbreaks may have calmed nerves.
Jim Schwartz, speaking at Wyoming Extension’s Strategically and Technologically Informative ag conference in Worland Feb. 6, reviewed diseases that took a toll on Wyoming livestock last year.
But first he talked about the horrific toll of FMD on English producers in 2001 and told about a FMD seminar the livestock board is sponsoring Feb. 25 in Cheyenne. Featured speaker is Wisconsin veterinarian Dr. Steve Van Wie, whose presentation is based on his experiences in Great Britain during the epidemic. More information is below.
Schwartz said the livestock board could have responded better to the bluetongue outbreak in Big Horn Basin sheep herds last summer and fall. Bluetongue, a non-contagious, insect-born viral disease that affects livestock, apparently migrated into Wyoming from Montana.
Some flocks were reduced 20 to 30 percent, and more than 900 animals died.
“My job should have been to contact every producer in the Big Horn Basin and let them know about the disease,” he said. “We had several ranches that had severe losses from bluetongue. It is transferred by a midge, and we thought after the first freeze it would be no problem, but it took a long time to get a hard freeze in the basin last year.”
Ranches are quarantined on a place-by-place basis. There is no good vaccine available, Schwartz said, and, “The job I see is to keep producers informed.”
Two scrapie instances in Wyoming took about 300 animals. In one case, an entire flock was depopulated. Near Sheridan, the disease infected a purebred flock. The animals and the genetic development were lost. “It was horrible,” Schwartz said. “It’s one of the saddest times I’ve ever had to work while in the agency.”
The state is now brucellosis-free, but every eligible animal has been tested for the disease at sale barns since 2004, he said. “Thank goodness our cattle are clean in Wyoming. We ought to be pretty darn proud of that fact.”
He said 156 voluntary herd plans are in place by ranchers in the brucellosis surveillance area near the wildlife reservoir of the disease in northwest Wyoming.
“Those ranchers in this area are having it tough – wolves, grizzlies and now brucellosis. We are going to lose the ranching industry if we don’t figure out how to help those people,” he said. “They are working real hard to make sure the entire state of Wyoming maintains its brucellosis-free status.”
He urged producers to inform each other of possible incidents. “The number-one thing we need is vaccine research, and I think the top priority for the state of Wyoming is to get that going,” said Schwartz. “If so, this problem would go away for us, and that’s the only way I see for it to go away.”
The FMD seminar is at the Herschler Building, B-63, at 122 West 25th St. The seminar begins with registration at 5 p.m. Speakers are from the livestock board, the Wyoming Department of Agriculture, the Wyoming Department of Health, Wyoming Beef Council and Wyoming Office of Homeland Security.
For more information about the seminar, contact Schwartz at (307) 777-5979; Assistant State Veterinarian Dr. Jim Logan at (307) 857-4140; or State Veterinarian Dr. Walt Cook at (307) 777-6443.