Editor’s note: Reporters were not allowed to quote any of the three state veterinarians on this conference call from United States Cattlemen’s Association. Maggie Nutter, USCA board member, contributed to this article.
Northern Plains state veterinarians attended the joint United States Animal Health Association and American Association of Veterinary Laboratory Diagnosticians annual meeting in Providence, R.I.
Livestock diseases and traceability dominated the topic, including how the right traceability method would help with animal identification and animal health.
Dr. Susan Keller of North Dakota, Dr. Marty Zaluski of Montana, and Dr. Dustin Odekoven of South Dakota were the state veterinarians on the phone call.
USDA has put Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) tags on the backburner, until ranchers and other stakeholders can have time to give more input.
The veterinarians discussed that there is not a current platform for the data that they could search for in case of a disease, if RFID tags were the rule right now.
A database would have to be established first, and the parameters set.
Who would have access to the data? If it were a private company selling RFID tags and a database, how accessible would the data be for state veterinarians?
Veterinarians will need quick access to the data, and there is a difference between private and state veterinarian access.
Animal identification is for the benefit of the livestock industry, so support has to come from livestock industry.
Traceability is a regulatory program, vitally needed for animal health purposes, and not for hassling ranchers who are not related to those with livestock having a disease.
The veterinarians hope RFID will provide traceability. They are looking for a more proactive approach to animal disease.
Stumbling blocks in RFID technology include whether to use high or low frequencies. Everyone involved would need to know how to operate the RFID tag system beyond running a wand over an animal.
States have the ability to use Bangs vaccination tags as one traceability system and if Bangs vaccination declines, so does the ability to trace female cows.
Veterinarians on the conference call discussed bovine tuberculosis (TB).
One vet talked about tuberculosis and the fact that 99 herds had to be investigated recently, searching for one specific steer that had a strain of TB.
Money and time on the road has been spent searching through herd after herd to find that specific animal with that TB strain.
The vets discussed that there was a mandatory identification rule in place since 2013, and there has been various levels of using that rule and testing animals.
The three states have a good data system in place for cattle that are 18 months of age and older.
Foot and Mouth disease (FMD) was also discussed.
The state veterinarian’s association has put forward $92 million for a vaccine bank for four years, but the U.S. has always been stymied by a lack of money. However, the U.S. has the benefit of time to prepare.
In the case of FMD, if traceability were there, the vaccine may not. Vaccine is only part of solution.
Even though there is funding for a FMD vaccine bank, it is not well stocked at this time and only carries the most common strains of FMD. Currently, some 23-24 strains of FMD have been identified.
The strain issue is a really vexing problem. The U.S. recognizes common strains but it there is an oddball strain, there may not be vaccine for it.
Also, it is a shared vaccine bank and not located in the USA. The antigen bank is stored with Mexico and Canada.
The USDA is working to make the vaccine bank more robust but there are many details and it takes time.
Viruses will change in response to how the disease moves through herds.
In all, better technologies are needed to fight animal disease and protect the U.S.’s livestock herd.