Fremont County is now on the list: It’s part of a designated surveillance area for brucellosis in Idaho.
For one Idahoan, raising cattle has been in his family for over 150 years.
“It’s a scary word when people hear it,” said Richard Savage, president of the Idaho Cattle Association.
For Savage the word brucellosis brings back horrible memories.
“Early 70’s people lost whole herds of cattle. They just had the disease to the point where they couldn’t test it out and get rid of those cows,” said Savage.
Although Savage lives in Jefferson County — a county not under the designated surveillance area for brucellosis — just knowing the disease has infected two herds in Idaho this year makes his mind uneasy; especially for future generations of cattle ranchers.
“It’s in our blood. That’s where a lot of the passion comes from. My children who have children that plan on being involved in it as well,” said Savage.
So, what does the future of Idaho’s cattle raising look like?
“In the last 10 years or so, the epidemic investigation shows that the likely source of infection was from that of a wild elk,” said Dr. Bill Barton, Idaho’s state veterinarian.
Idaho is a mandatory brucellosis vaccination state — meaning all female breeding cattle have to vaccinated between 4-12 months of age. According to Barton the vaccine is a good preventive measure, however, Barton says, “that vaccine is not 100 percent effective.”
Elk migration across the Idaho-Wyoming border puts all female cattle at risk.
If a rancher’s cattle becomes infected, they can no longer be sold.
So as of now, the best prevention ranchers can take, “If they do have exposure to elk that they maintain separation between their cattle and the elk,” said Barton.
For ranchers in Fremont County Dr. Barton will be holding a session on November 28th from 6-8 pm at the Fremont County Annex building.
And Barton said maintaining that separation of elk and cattle through breeding season from January first through June 15th will certainly decrease the risk of cattle catching brucellosis.