Montana Declared Free of Brucellosis

By Beacon Staff

BILLINGS – Export restrictions on Montana’s billion-dollar cattle industry are to be lifted on Friday after federal officials declared the state was once again free of the livestock disease brucellosis.

Brucellosis causes pregnant cattle and other animals to miscarry.

Thursday’s announcement means all 50 states are now designated as brucellosis free — although the disease still lingers in herds of wild elk and bison in and around Yellowstone National Park.

Cattle herd infections in Montana in 2007 and 2008 led the U.S. Department of Agriculture to revoke the state’s disease-free status last year. That forced thousands of livestock producers to test their cows for the disease before they could be shipped out of state.

Montana has an estimated 2.6 million cattle.

Idaho and Wyoming — the other two Yellowstone states — also have lost their disease-free status in recent years but both regained it.

The USDA’s decision to restore Montana’s status came after the state Department of Livestock had increased brucellosis monitoring in seven Yellowstone-area counties.

Still, the decision caught state livestock officials by surprise. They submitted an application to regain Montana’s disease-free status in June, but had expected to wait up to six months for an answer.

“We’re thrilled,” state veterinarian Marty Zaluski said. “We’ve done over 165,000 brucellosis tests in the 12 months prior and we haven’t found the disease. We’re going to keep looking for it and have some degree of confidence that we won’t find it.”

Blood testing of cattle in the seven Yellowstone-area counties will continue for six more months, Zaluski said. After that, the state will focus its monitoring efforts within portions of up to four counties where cattle have historically interacted with elk that carry the disease.

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