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Don't forget danger of brucellosis

Arkansas was declared free of brucellosis in 1997, but a cattle expert is warning producers not to get complacent.

“It's hard for many younger cattle producers to visualize just how devastating brucellosis can be. Most older producers, however, remember,” says Tom Troxel, head of the animal science section of the University of Arkansas Cooperative Extension Service.

“Back in December 1979, 601 Arkansas cattle herds were quarantined because of brucellosis,” he said. Producers lost cattle and a considerable amount of money because of the disease.

Although Arkansas has been free of brucellosis for several years, producers must not forget about how destructive brucellosis was, Troxel said.

“Brucellosis in cattle can cause abortion, usually in the last trimester. The disease can also cause stillborn or weak calves, retained placentas and reduced milk yield. If bulls are infected, the brucellosis organism is in the bull's semen.”

Troxel said a key management tool that helped the Arkansas cattle industry reach brucellosis-free status was calfhood vaccination.

If a producer buys heifers aged four to 12 months at any Arkansas cattle market or concentration point and wants to transport those heifers back to an Arkansas farm, state law requires the heifers be vaccinated before they're moved from the market. It's the responsibility of the buyer to notify the cattle market and request that the heifers be calfhood vaccinated.

Any heifer aged four to 12 months retained as a replacement should be vaccinated for brucellosis.

Technicians with the Arkansas Livestock and Poultry Commission vaccinate heifers in the fall at the request of producers. Producers sign up, and a county Extension agent develops a daily schedule based on the number and location of producers who signed up. This vaccination schedule is called a “brucellosis vaccination route.”

The cost of on-the-farm calfhood vaccinations is paid for by the livestock and poultry commission. The commission provides the brucellosis vaccinations to veterinarians. A veterinarian may charge the producer a farm visit fee or a chute fee but is prohibited in charging the producer a fee for the calfhood vaccine.

“It was the cattle industry working together that helped eliminate brucellosis from Arkansas and it'll be the cattle industry working together to keep brucellosis from reentering Arkansas,” Troxel said.

For more information about brucellosis, contact the Arkansas Livestock and Poultry Commission. For information about countywide brucellosis routes, contact an Arkansas county Extension agent.

Lamar James is an Extension communications specialist with the University of Arkansas.

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