N.D. board orders additional testing of Idaho cattle

Farm Forum

BISMARCK, N.D. (AP) – North Dakota is requiring brucellosis testing for cattle and bison brought into the state from Idaho, to help keep North Dakota’s livestock industry free of the disease.

A recent state and federal review found concerns with efforts to limit the spread of brucellosis from areas in Idaho near Yellowstone National Park, where the infectious bacterial disease that can cause miscarriages has been documented in bison and elk, North Dakota State Veterinarian Susan Keller said on April 2.

North Dakota does not have any documented cases of brucellosis – a disease that has been largely eradicated in cattle – and ”we don’t want to jeopardize that status,” she said. ”Import requirements are important to helping prevent that.”

Any bison and beef, dairy and rodeo cattle imported from Idaho must first test negative for brucellosis, even if the animals come from areas outside a designated brucellosis surveillance area in eastern parts of that state adjacent to the park, according to the order by North Dakota’s Board of Animal Health. Someone who violates the order could be subject to thousands of dollars in fines.

Idaho State Veterinarian Bill Barton called the move ”unfortunate” because it will require ranchers far from the surveillance area to pay for tests on any animals they want to ship to North Dakota.

Barton said he understood North Dakota’s concerns but that Idaho has taken numerous steps to prevent the spread of brucellosis in that state.

”Certainly, it’s in our producers’ favor to make sure we don’t export a potentially infected animal,” he said. ”We want to keep the marketability of our cattle at its highest level.”

Barton said the recent review was done before cattle in the surveillance area were turned out to summer pasture, so it did not document a lot of testing. He said the state does have testing requirements in place, and no state other than North Dakota has tightened restrictions on Idaho cattle imports.

”We want to assure North Dakota and other trading partner states (that) we are providing adequate surveillance, that we are testing those animals that need to be tested,” Barton said. ”Hopefully we can show that very quickly and have that (North Dakota) board order rescinded.”

Idaho late last year also expanded its surveillance area after a cattle herd outside the existing area tested positive for brucellosis.

The North Dakota Stockmen’s Association, the state’s largest rancher group, supports the testing requirement on Idaho cattle because it will help protect North Dakota’s livestock industry, Executive Vice President Julie Ellingson said.

Neither the Stockmen’s nor either of the two states’ agriculture departments immediately had data on the number of livestock brought from Idaho to North Dakota each year, but Keller, Barton and Ellingson all said the number is not large.

”Nevertheless, we value them as a customer so we want to meet their needs and assure them we are sending a disease-free product,” Barton said.