USDA downgrades Montana’s brucellosis-free status |

USDA downgrades Montana’s brucellosis-free status

The Montana Department of Livestock announced Sept. 3 that the USDA’s Animal & Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) has officially downgraded the state’s brucellosis status from Class Free to Class A.

Dr. Marty Zaluski, state veterinarian for the Montana Department of Livestock, said the downgrade comes as no surprise.

“Everyone knew this was coming,” Zaluski said. “This just makes it official.”

The interim rule downgrading Montana’s status was published Sept. 3 in the Federal Register.

Montana had been brucellosis-free since 1985, but the disease was found in a Bridger cattle herd in May of 2007. Per APHIS rules, the state had to remain brucellosis-free for 24 months after that discovery to maintain Class Free status. The process of downgrading Montana’s status was initiated in June 2008 after a cow in Paradise Valley was found to be infected with the disease.

Zaluski said the department has been working on a brucellosis action plan, and will reapply for Class free status as soon as possible, on May 27, 2009.

“We’ve been working internally, as well as with individual producers and producer groups, to develop a comprehensive brucellosis plan,” he said. “No one is happy about losing our brucellosis free status, but we’re optimistic that, by working together, we can develop practical approaches that reduce the risks of transmitting the disease to cattle.”

The plan will include, among other items, vaccination of livestock, improved animal traceability and disease surveillance, and increased emphasis on maintaining spatial and temporal separation between livestock and wildlife known to carry the disease. The Montana Board of Livestock has also directed the department to create a brucellosis task force.

The department will additionally be working with state and federal wildlife managers to address disease concerns related to wildlife. Zaluski said more information is needed on the prevalence of brucellosis in Greater Yellowstone Area elk.

The downgrade means Montana’s livestock producers will, at a minimum, be required to test all sexually intact cattle over 18 months of age within 30 days of export. Exempt from the testing requirement are cattle sent directly to slaughter, from certified brucellosis-free herds and from ranch of origin to an approved market facility.

Producers who export cattle are also encouraged to check regulations in destination states, although Zaluski said the downgrade should add uniformity.

“Different states have had different rules since the detection occurred, so hopefully this will add some consistency,” he said.

The USDA has four classifications for brucellosis: Class Free, Class A, Class B and Class C. Restrictions on the interstate movement of cattle become less stringent as a state approaches or achieves Class Free status. Class C designation is for states with the highest rate of brucellosis, and requires a federal quarantine. Class A and Class B fall between the two extremes of Class Free and Class C status.

The interim rule can be found in the Federal Register at Public comment on the rule can be submitted on or before Nov. 3. Comments can be submitted by sending two copies to Docket No. APHIS-2008-0086, Regulatory Analysis and Development, PPD, APHIS, Station 3A-03.8, 4700 River Road, Unit 118, Riverdale, MD 20737-1238. Comments can also be emailed to the same docket number at, or by visiting then clicking on “Add Comments.” This web site also allows viewing of all public comments and related materials available electronically.


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