2nd Cow Tests Positive for Brucellosis – Montana Loses Brucellosis-Free Status

by jhwygirl

A second cow in Montana has tested positive for brucellosis, resulting in what will likely be a loss of the brucellosis-free status for the state’s livestock.

The first cow that tested positive had been found in May 2007 in the Morgan Ranch herd, which had wintered in Bridger. That herd had to be destroyed. In that situation, the likely source of the transmission was elk.

Governor Schweitzer has been an advocate for a split-state status for the state’s livestock. The Montana Cattleman’s Association has supported that initiative – while the Montana Stockgrower’s Association has not.

(UPDATE: The Missoulian has a story on this which states that had the split-state status been adopted, less than 5% of the state’s cattle would have been affected by the additional testing required. Now, all of the state’s cattle is affected. Wonder what the Cattleman’s Association has to say about that?)

I’ve had interest in the hysterics of the pseudo-brucellosis/bison threat for years – more than a decade, actually. It’s interesting that bison have been hazed back into the park from this area, yet elk roam freely. Paradise Valley, to note, is a bit of a distance from the area where bison typically leave the park.

Wyoming had previously lost its brucellosis-free status due to the transmission of elk to domesticated animals – which experts largely agree is due to its widespread use of elk feedgrounds (both the National Elk Refuge in Jackson, Wyoming, and the numerous state-run feedgrounds in the surrounding area).

But for the first time in 74 years, in February, the US Dept. of Agriculture had declared all 50 states to be brucellosis-free.

Loss of the brucellosis-free status means that all cattle will have to undergo a testing and vaccination program prior to sale or transfer.


  1. I agree. But had Montana looked at this situation realistically – at the inevitability of it – instead of seeking a solution in slaughtering bison, we would not be in this situation.

    Slaughter all the bison you want – eliminate every last one of them – and we’d still have had this result.

    It was just a matter of time.

  2. goof houlihan

    Buffalo meat loaf is tasty.

  3. Slaughtering all my healthy heifers & their healthy calves didn’t deter this from happening either.

  4. goof – The Shack’s chipotle bison burgers are even better.

    moos – slaughtering all your healthy heifers had all the point of the slaughtering 1600+ bison this past winter. Think about that – more bison senselessly slaughtered this past winter than all other winters, and here we are with another case of brucellosis. Yep. That sure made sense.

    It’s not like I’m here championing brucellosis, saying it should be ignored. At least the Governor tried to do something – he’s pushed on the split-state status for more than 2 years now. Getting the USDA to be OK with it wasn’t easy – yet what Montana cattle ranchers got was senseless hysterics and roadblocks from the Montana Stockgrower’s Association.

    You still face the chance, under the current so-called “management program” of having to slaughter your brucellosis infected cattle again. Because science and past history shows that elk are far more likely to transmit brucellosis to your cattle than bison are.

  5. goof houlihan

    “At least the Governor tried to do something – he’s pushed on the split-state status for more than 2 years now”

    What are you talking about? This recent “slaughter” you bemoan, it happened on your governor’s watch, and by a department of his administration under his direction.

    The governor had the authority to stop the “slaughter”. He didn’t.

    The tragedy is that we’ve lost the brucellosis free status, and that seriously affects a traditional way of life we all treasure in the treasure state. I predict more trophy ranches and fewer working ranches as a result. You might see that as a victory, after all, trophy ranchers won’t be affected by the loss of status, and they’d probably just as soon hug a buffalo as hug a bunny.

  6. jhwygirl

    I do NOT see this as any sort of victory – I don’t know why you would say that. I’ve not “championed” brucellosis in any way, nor have I been a proponent of sprawl. I’m at a loss as to why you would say that, goof.

    Would halting the slaughter this past winter have been meet with cheers and happiness from the livestock industry? Further, the misguided efforts were part of an agreement that was entered into in 2000 and 2006 which included the feds. It was a lose-lose situation. Senseless from the beginning, and driven more by politics of the Stockgrower’s Association than anything else.

    And the whole damned public fed into it, goof. It’s been going for a long long time – I find it hard to blame Schweitzer solely for the situation. Had he done what you suggested he’d of been strung up and hanged by the livestock industry.

    I’ll say what I said before – had we been out rounding up and slaughtering elk like we were doing to bison, the whole damned miserable affair would have made at least a tiny bit more of sense. The way it is now, clearly, the current plan doesn’t work.

    And isn’t that what the Buffalo Field Campaign and others have been saying all along?

  7. Jhwygirl – Even as someone who was affected directly by this disease, I have NEVER been a proponent of slaughtering bison. If you had read anything that I’ve written you would be aware of that. I too, have said that it doesn’t make sense. And again, my cattle are NOT brucellosis infected.

  8. jhwygirl

    moos – Thanks. I knew you raised cattle, but I admit, I wasn’t sure where you stood on the slaughtering of bison as a solution.

    What do you suggest? What would work, in your opinion?

  9. JC

    The brucellosis problem will never be solved until people realize that managing bison is not the solution. If it were the solution, then the BMP would have have been successful. Contrarily, it has been a dismal failure on all fronts. Time and money and wildlife wasted.

    What will work? For the government and the livestock industry to put all of their efforts into understanding how brucellosis is an ecosystem problem, and is carried and vectored through multiple wildlife species, and has a persistence in the environment. It cannot and will not be eradicated by managing bison, nor managing elk. The problem is far greater than that.

  10. goof houlihan

    Why would I say that? Because trophy ranchers aren’t part of those evil cattle, stockgrowers, livestock industry associations. Probably with the 4H and FFA thrown in as well.

    Protect a way of life, or not. That’s the choice. I’m on the protect side, not the Buffalo Field campaign’s.

  11. JC

    The choice, Goof, is not “protect a way of life, or not.” It’s protect your enamored “traditional way of life” vs. another’s traditional way of life.

    There are far greater traditional values at play here than just the one that is protected via a brucellosis-free status.

  12. goof – just how do trophy ranchers get those trophy ranches?

    I know trophy ranchers (some that purchased from a Cabela’s Real Estate office) that ranch their land. Do they not count in your mix of the world?

    Montana Stockgrower’s Association is stuck in some two-year-old-fit of a “NO” scream, without offering any solution.

    As I mentioned above – they objected to the split-state status – not the Cattleman. This isn’t a “he who carries the biggest stick” or “he who has the biggest number of members” issue – it’s science and reality.

    The Stockgrower’s Association resistance to, at the very least, the split-state status is why, now, livestock people across the state must now test their cattle.

    A shame, if you ask me. It wasn’t easy getting the USDA to the table on the split-state idea.

    The split-state idea recognized that brucellosis was mainly coming out of the park. Isn’t that part of their gripe?

    What do they want? Every animal in the park slaughtered?

    They offer NO solution.

  13. JC

    “What do they want? Every animal in the park slaughtered?

    They offer NO solution.”

    What makes you think this isn’t exactly the solution they want? I’ve toyed with the idea that the Stockgrowers Ass. was willing to lose the brucellosis-free status in order to crank up the rhetoric against the state, the feds and BFC.

    You heard me right. I think that this situation is exactly what the radical ranchers want: create a turmoil in the industry they can exploit so as to push their agenda of depopulating Yellowstone’s wildlife species and building a de facto fence around the park.

    They’re already losing the grazing war around the park to permits drying up, private grazing lands being bought up by conservationists, government purchasing land and grazing rights, etc. They’re pissed, and this is their way of fighting back. Unfortunately it is they who don’t care about the traditional rancher from eastern Montana who doesn’t want to get dragged into this battle. It is they who are willing to hold hostage all the small ranching families who have the most to lose in this battle.

  14. goof houlihan

    JC won’t be happy till Montana is “the big empty” again. I get it.

    There are many who welcome trophy ranchers, but I think they’re as guilty as any in wiping out that traditional Montana lifestyle.

    The reason I’ve supported two, ten million dollar open space bond issues has nothing to do with bison or environmentalism, and everything to do with enabling a last couple of generations of agriculture in the Gallatin.

    I think my views are consistent across the board. Whackos who want to get rid of the traditional rancher, because their cows get in the streams and eat the plants, and yes, think it’s great that familiy ranches aren’t getting grazing rights, might find a crop of houses where a cattle ranch once stood. As the song said, they kept it beautiful for you, so don’t you screw up montana.

  15. JC

    Goof, you know not what you say. I am one of those traditional ranchers of which you so alluringly speak, yet I need not your whiny tribulations. I ranched south of Bozeman in the 70’s, and again in the 80’s in Park county. I just happened to decide I wanted to do more with my life, which is why I went to college and got out of there.

    “Big Empty” is what you get when you artificially manage wildlife so as to limit the range and populations of native species so as to artificially prop up an industry of exotic species like cattle.

  1. 1 DOL Conference Call to Update Brucellosis Situation « 4&20 blackbirds

    […] the Department of Livestock’s regular meeting (the first since the loss of Montana’s brucellosis-free status) is scheduled for July 21 & 22nd (agenda pending), there will be a conference call this […]

  2. 2 So Hey DOL: When Do We Start Slaughtering Elk? « 4&20 blackbirds

    […] Dr. Martin Zaluski is nearing completion of the testing of adjacent herds to the infected cow that cost Montana its brucellosis-free status and is encouraged by the results. So far, none have tested […]

  3. 3 Schweitzer Criticizes Wyoming Feedgrounds in Letter to U.S. Dept. of Agriculture « 4&20 blackbirds

    […] leaving the rest of the state without having to subject its cattle to the extra round of oversight. Schweitzer has pushed for this method for years now. Under a split-state status, only 5% of Montana’s cattle would be […]

  4. 4 Governor Speaks Strong on Brucellosis; Brucellosis Update « 4&20 blackbirds

    […] give the Governor a big kudos for keeping this issue moving along since the massive slaughter and the discovery of the state’s 2nd case of brucellosis, which resulted in the loss of our brucellosis-free classification by the U.S. Department of […]

  5. 5 Wild Buffalo Recovery and Conservation Act - HB253 « 4&20 blackbirds

    […] (’encouraged’ by the Montana Stockgrower’s Association) many times. Montana has lost its brucellosis-free status under the tutelage of the misguided management of bison by the DOI. It took two cases of […]

  6. 6 Montana Department of Livestock: Criminals « 4&20 blackbirds

    […] has been found in both Montana and Wyoming in the last year – and Montana lost its brucellosis-free status last June after two cases were found in the space of one […]




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