University of Wyoming Extension News

Chronic wasting disease research article gets top honor in UW research publication

Chronic wasting disease (CWD) research into white-tailed and mule deer herds in Wyoming claimed the top story for 2011 Reflections, the research magazine of the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources at the University of Wyoming.

Economic research into what drought-response strategies by producers work best received second place.

An anonymous peer group of faculty members reviews articles and awards first and second places. The magazine is published by the Wyoming Agricultural Experiment Station.

Animal and veterinary sciences doctoral students Melia Devivo and Dave Edmunds are part of the two-stage research study into CWD. Edmunds is finishing investigating effects of CWD on population sustainability and behavior related to the spread of the disease in free ranging, white-tailed deer near Glenrock. Devivo is now examining the effects of CWD in mule deer near Douglas. Working with them is Todd Cornish, associate professor in the Department of Veterinary Sciences.

CWD is a 100-percent fatal disease of white-tailed deer, mule deer, elk and moose, for which there is no vaccine or treatment.

Radio-telemetry and Global Positioning System collars provide some of the data, including survival, home range size, habitat use, migration patterns, dispersal rates, daily activity patterns and reproductive success.

Among white-tailed deer findings by Edmunds:

  • Females had a higher prevalence than males
  • Pregnancy not significantly affected by CWD
  • All white-tailed deer equally susceptible to CWD infection
  • Migration and dispersal rates were lower in CWD-positive white-tailed deer than CWD-negative deer

Preliminary findings by Devivo include:

  • CWD is less common in female mule deer than bucks in the sample area
  • CWD does not affect pregnancy in mule deer

In drought-response research, faculty members built a model ranch on paper, based on a 600-cow ranch in central Wyoming, and then subjected it to drought of various lengths to determine what strategies would work best for ranchers.

The study compared alternative drought strategies across 86 years of precipitation and 27 different cattle price cycle scenarios. Authors are Chris Bastian, associate professor, and John Ritten, assistant professor, in the Department of Agricultural and Applied Economics; Michael Smith, professor in the Department of Renewable Resources and extension range specialist; and Steve Paisley, associate professor in the Department of Animal Science and extension beef cattle specialist.

The research examines late calving, late calving with benefits, early weaning, retaining steers over winter and summer feeding scenarios. Researchers found that, generally, retaining ownership of steer calves over the winter, with the option to sell if forage supplies become scarce, outperforms both partial liquidation and summer feeding.

Reflections is available at UW research and extension centers at Powell, Sheridan and Laramie, the James C. Hageman Sustainable Agriculture Research and Extension Center near Lingle, and UW Cooperative Extension Service offices. Copies can also be obtained via mail by calling the AES office in the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources at (307) 766-3667.

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