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Montana: New lab coming soon

By Wallace McLane for Tri-State Livestock News

There is an old adage that if you are given a lemon, make lemonade. One thing to come out of this lemon of a pandemic we’ve been living through comes an appropriation from the Montana Executive Budget of $26.2 million for a new Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory (VDL). As the present VDL was built in the 1950s, this is a major serving of lemonade for the Montana livestock industry.

The bill, HB14, was authored by Julie Johnson, of the legislative staff, and sponsored by Representative Mike Hopkins, of Missoula.

It was overwhelmingly endorsed by both the senate and the house.



When it comes to the health and well-being of our livestock, and the fact that requirements for their safeguard continually change or increase, the VDL has to remain diligent and current on the services it offers. The list of services and tests it performs currently consists of 12 pages–-singled space.

While not directly tied to any of the meat processing facilities around the state, the new VDL will continue to do testing, for regulatory purposes, of animals going to slaughter.



The new labs will be located in an area adjacent to the current Marsh Labs, just west of the Montana State campus in Bozeman. Once the timeline is established and construction begins, it is projected to take four to five years before the doors are unlocked and the lights are turned on-–barring hiccups in the process. Once operational the portion of the Marsh Labs occupied by the current veterinary diagnostic labs will revert back to MSU-Bozeman’s Facilities’ Management.

While the $26.2 million is appropriated for construction, the day-to-day operations will be funded by the ongoing work of the diagnostic lab, including, but not limited to: livestock owner requested tests and lab testing fees, as well as federal and state general funding. The Department of Livestock’s Centralized Services Division does the “accounting, purchasing, payroll, IT, and administrative support” for the VDL.

According to Gregory Juda, PhD, Director of the Montana Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory, the lab currently employs “two veterinary pathologists and a veterinary microbiologist (total of three veterinarians)” and a support staff of 19. This is not expected to change in the new lab unless additional people are needed for facility repairs and maintenance.

Technically the Montana Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory operates within the Montana Department of Livestock, of which Dr. Marty Zaluski is the state veterinarian. Formally, Dr. Zaluski oversees the VDL. The VDL also works closely with the Animal Health Bureau, of the Montana Department of Livestock.:


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