State’s brucellosis team plans meetings in Worland, Lovell

The status of brucellosis in Wyoming, producer requirements for transport or selling and liability and reports on a new test for the disease are among topics at February meetings in Worland and Lovell presented by members of the Governor’s Brucellosis Coordination Team.

The first is the afternoon of Thursday, Feb. 15, during WESTI Ag Days in Worland, said Bruce Hoar, coordinator of brucellosis research at the University of Wyoming. WESTI Ag Days is Feb. 14-15 at the Worland Community Center, 1200 Culbertson Ave.

The team then meets 10 a.m. Friday at the Lovell Community Center, 1925 US 310, he said. Lunch is available following the meeting.

Hoar will give a background on the disease to start the meetings followed by producer responsibilities by a representative from the state veterinarian’s office and researcher Brant Schumaker of the Wyoming State Veterinary Laboratory will provide an update on current testing and progress of a new brucellosis test his team is developing.

If successful, the much-more-accurate novel molecular assay (polymerase chain reaction [PCR]) test could replace culture testing.

The team will also address finding elk positive for brucellosis in the Bighorn Mountains.

“I think the fact that seropositive (blood test) elk have been found in the Bighorn Mountains over the past five years raises a concern by the Wyoming Livestock Board and the University of Wyoming,” said Hoar. “We want producers to have accurate, up-to-date information they may not be aware of.”

For more information, contact Hoar at 307-766-3372 or at bhoar@uwyo.edu.

UW Economists offer strategy for cattle producers facing brucellosis risk

One red, one black calf with yellow ear tags stand in field with hay feeder, trees, hills in back.
For producers considering a switch to stockers, there has been little guidance on how to transition the operation.

Imagine this: Your cattle contract brucellosis from infected elk. The cows abort their calves. When the federal government quarantines the herd of 400 for a year, you face costs up to $143,000. Not only are your profits from the cow-calf-yearling operation wiped out, your neighbor’s are too, as all potentially affected animals are quarantined until infected animals are identified and culled.

This threat brought cattle producers to the table with a team of University of Wyoming agricultural economists and other experts in 2013 in Worland, Wyoming. The researchers were asked to investigate the economics associated with different types of cattle operations and their ultimate profitability for producers in the region.

The result is “Economics of Transitioning from a Cow-Calf-Yearling Operation to a Stocker Operation as a Potential Strategy to Address Brucellosis Risk in Northwestern Wyoming.” The new publication is available as a free download from UW Extension at http://bit.ly/stockeroperation.

The risk of contracting the disease is greatest in the Greater Yellowstone Area of northwestern Wyoming where brucellosis is endemic in wild elk and bison populations. The switch to stockers eliminates this risk completely, says Christopher Bastian, professor in the Department of Agricultural and Applied Economics and one of the publication’s authors.

Intact breeding females are replaced with stocker cattle. Stockers are males or females purchased in spring, fed and maintained until they reach a target weight, then sold. Steers and spayed heifers in a stocker operation cannot spread the disease to other animals.

The authors acknowledge the decision to switch doesn’t come easy. Analyses indicate the cow-calf-yearling operation is generally more profitable than the stocker operation. Brucellosis is the kicker.

“If you think you are at high risk of contracting brucellosis, it would only take one quarantine to negate the advantage of staying in a cow-calf-yearling operation rather than transitioning to stockers,” says Bastian.

This publication offers a starting point for producers in the Greater Yellowstone Area looking at alternative management strategies.

“No analyses to our knowledge have investigated the transition itself,” the authors explain. “Thus, for producers considering a switch to stockers, there has been little guidance on the economics of how best to transition to such an enterprise.”

Authors Shane Ruff, farm management specialist for the Kansas Farm Management Association and former graduate research assistant at UW; Bastian; Dannele Peck, director of the USDA Northern Plains Climate Hub and adjunct associate professor, UW Department of Agricultural and Applied Economics; and Walt E. Cook, assistant professor, Department of Veterinary Sciences, Texas A&M University offer comprehensive analyses for one-year and eight-year transitions, as well as remaining a cow-calf-yearling operation.

Here are some of their conclusions:

  • More total income could be available from the cow-calf-yearling operation if a producer is staying in the cattle business more than 20 years.
  • More total income could be available from the eight-year transition if a producer is staying in the cattle business 20 years or less.
  • A producer must consider the risks of infection versus profitability and income variability.
  • The switch to stockers (other than getting out of the cattle business altogether) is the only 100-percent effective strategy to avoid the costs associated with quarantine.

The guide is one of many free publications available at  bit.ly/UWEpubs, covering brucellosis, ranch budgets, finances and profitability and cattle markets and economics.

For more information, contact Bastian at (307) 766-4377 or bastian@uwyo.edu.

UW receives grant to develop more accurate brucellosis test for swine, cattle

Ph.D. student Noah Hull’s research project is to develop a PCR (polymerase chain reaction) brucellosis test that would be quicker, cheaper, and more accurate than culture tests used today.

Researchers in the Department of Veterinary Sciences at the University of Wyoming will use a $149,000 grant from the Foundation for Food and Agriculture Research to help develop a quicker, cheaper and more accurate test to detect brucellosis.

The money will help fund studies to detect swine brucellosis (Brucella suis), which is prevalent among feral swine in most of the United States, but not yet in Wyoming. B. suis can also infect domestic swine and cattle where their populations overlap.

The money will help continue efforts toward creating a polymerase chain reaction (PCR) analysis, an ongoing effort by Dr. Brant Schumaker, DVM, and associate professor in the department.

There is a growing pressure for hog producers to move from confinement production to natural or pasture-raised swine. Serologic (blood) testing cannot discriminate between cattle brucellosis (Brucella abortus) and B. suis exposures.

Associate Professor Brant Schumaker

“I think most of the state understands how much of a problem cattle brucellosis has been in the Greater Yellowstone Area,” said Schumaker, epidemiologist at the Wyoming State Veterinary Laboratory. He will lead the collaborative project with Texas A&M University.

“If this disease were to come to the state, we would have a hard time differentiating between the two organisms,” said Schumaker.
UW and Texas A&M will match the grant for a total of $299,000 for the project. Funding is through the foundation’s Rapid Outcomes from Agricultural Research (ROAR) program.

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