The Montana Department of Livestock has adopted changes to rules affecting vaccination requirements

The newly adopted brucellosis vaccination rule (ARM 32.3.433) mandates that eligible animals in 10 Montana counties must be vaccinated against brucellosis. The change requires that all sexually intact female cattle and domestic bison 12 months of age or older in Beaverhead, Big Horn, Broadwater, Carbon, Gallatin, Jefferson, Madison, Park, Stillwater, and Sweet Grass Counties must be brucellosis vaccinates. Prior to this rulemaking, only cattle and domestic bison in Gallatin, Madison, Park, and Beaverhead Counties were required to be vaccinated.  This rule includes cattle that enter any of these counties for seasonal grazing.

Beyond the addition of new counties, the rule also moves away from December 1st as the cutoff date for completion of vaccination and no longer specifies that animals be calf-hood vaccinates. This gives producers more options for the management of replacement heifers and allows animals to be vaccinated as adults.

“Vaccination in a broader area than Montana’s DSA provides some protection from sudden changes to the distribution of infected wildlife on the landscape,” said Eric Liska, brucellosis program veterinarian with MDOL. “Vaccination has been shown to minimize the spread of the disease if it is introduced into a livestock herd.”

Producers who have not vaccinated their replacement females in the past should contact their local veterinarian to schedule replacement heifer vaccinations and discuss options for unvaccinated adult females in the herd.

Additionally, changes to ARM 32.3.433 adjusts the DSA boundary in a portion of Beaverhead County. Cattle and domestic bison that utilize this area will be subject to all brucellosis DSA regulations. DSA regulations include brucellosis testing prior to a change of ownership and movement as well as vaccination and identification requirements.

The DSA boundary has expanded 3 times since 2009. Each expansion was made in response to findings of brucellosis in elk which required the inclusion of additional cattle and domestic bison in the surveillance program. The undetected disease spread outside of Montana’s DSA could jeopardize Montana’s federal brucellosis Class Free status, and in 2008, a loss of brucellosis Class Free status was estimated to have cost Montana’s producers up to $11.5 million annually.  DSA regulations and producer compliance have allowed for early disease detection when a periodic transmission from wildlife to livestock does occur. This success promotes trading partner confidence in the disease-free status of Montana’s livestock.

The mission of the Montana Department of Livestock is to control and eradicate animal diseases, prevent the transmission of animal diseases to humans, and to protect the livestock industry from theft and predatory animals. For more information on the Montana Department of Livestock, visit


MDOL Accepting Public Comment for Administrative Rule Changes

The Montana Department of Livestock (MDOL) will be holding public meetings seeking comment on a number of proposed rule changes. Click here for a complete list of the proposed rule changes.

Public Meetings have been scheduled in the following communities:

  • July 17th, 9 am at Absarokee Elementary School
  • July 17th, 2 pm at Bridger Elementary
  • July 18th, 9 am at The Eagles in Big Timber
  • July 23rd, 10 am at Jefferson High in Boulder
  • July 24th, 10 am at Townsend School

Of particular note are the changes to rule 32.3.436. The change would require all female cattle over 12 months of age to be official vaccinates for brucellosis in any county that contains or borders a brucellosis designated surveillance area (DSA). Currently, female cattle in Gallatin, Madison, Park, and Beaverhead Counties are required to be vaccinates; the proposed rule would expand that requirement to Carbon, Stillwater, Sweet Grass, Jefferson, and Broadwater Counties.

The mission of the Montana Department of Livestock is to control and eradicate animal diseases, prevent the transmission of animal diseases to humans, and to protect the livestock industry from theft and predatory animals. For more information on the Montana Department of Livestock, visit

Montana Stockgrowers Association Comments on Removal of Brucella abortus

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Montana Stockgrowers Association Comments on Removal of Brucella abortus

Helena, MT – The United States Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) is proposing updates to the select agents and toxins registration list, as required every two years by the Agricultural Bioterrorism Protection Act of 2002. APHIS has completed its fourth biannual review and is proposing to remove certain select agents that no longer need to be regulated as select agents, Brucella abortus (brucellosis) is included in the list. The Montana Stockgrowers Association (MSGA) is in support of the removal of B. abortus as a select agent that no longer needs to be regulated under this list.

MSGA and its members have significant and long-standing interest in the management of Brucella abortus, due mainly to the high rate of exposure in wildlife in and around Yellowstone National Park (YNP).  As many are aware, this disease is highly regulated in domestic cattle and bison and has broad implications for the marketing of cattle and genetics from Montana. The regulation of B. abortus by USDA APHIS has led to the implementation of strict testing and management protocols for cattle in an area surrounding YNP known as the Designated Surveillance Area (DSA).

MSGA does support the proposed removal of Brucella abortus as a select agent that no longer needs to be regulated under this list. MSGA agrees that by removing B. abortus from select agent regulations, will allow for additional research into vaccines for brucellosis.  “Our organization sees this as an essential step in the development of new or enhanced vaccines to control this disease in cattle and wildlife in the GYA,” says Gene Curry, President of the Montana Stockgrowers Association. “The current regulations and restrictions have nearly eliminated the efforts to further vaccine research and other aspects of B. abortus control.”

Due to the extent this disease impacts our state, MSGA recommends APHIS moving forward to remove Brucella abortus from this select agents and toxin registration list.


The Montana Stockgrowers Association, a non-profit organization representing nearly 2,500 members, strives to serve, protect and advance the economic, political, environmental and cultural interests of cattle producers, the largest sector of Montana’s number one industry – agriculture.




Montana Livestock Groups Submit Bison Comments

brucellosisMontana Stockgrowers Association, Montana Association of State Grazing Districts and the Montana Public Lands Council, submitted comments regarding the Montana FWP’s DRAFT Environmental Impact Statement Bison Conservation and Management in Montana document. The 90 day comment period closed on September 11th. FWP has stated a record of decision is expected by early next year.

Our organizations comments were reflective of our membership policies regarding bison management. Some of the general concerns regarding a potential bison relocation included:

  1. Damages to fences by bison that compromise landowner attempts at good grazing management
  2. Private property owners expected to bear the brunt of the expenses
  3. Wild bison would be direct forage competitors with livestock, which would force cattle producers to reduce their herds if bison populations were present on their lands
  4. Federal and state grazing allotments may be put in jeopardy by the relocation of bison to these lands, negatively affecting Montana’s livestock industry

Our members have clearly stated in our policy that we are opposed to bison relocation, but we are committed to being active participants in future negotiations with all entities involved. Some of our critical concerns to any bison relocation include:

  1. The use of private lands without the landowner’s permission
  2. Any relocation must follow strict guidelines:
    • No diseased bison will be relocated anywhere in Montana, other than a state and federally approved quarantine facility or a packing plant for immediate processing
    • Before any other relocation, DFWP shall develop and adopt a comprehensive statewide management plan that is entirely consistent with 87-1-216, MCA

In reviewing the proposed alternatives, our organizations supported Alternative 1: No Action. In reviewing the entire document, there were numerous concerns regarding a number of sections in the Draft EIS.

Starting with the Genetics section, there appeared to be a recommendation to have a bison population of at least 1,000 animals for genetic purposes. Our comments stated potential herds with these types of population numbers would need extremely large landscapes and nutritional requirements that would lead to significant impacts on neighboring family ranches.

On the section of Brucellosis Management, disease management is one of the livestock industry’s most serious concerns. In the Bison/Agriculture Interactions section, federal grazing permits are referenced. Our organizations have experience with groups seeking to reduce or eliminate these grazing permits to allow more habitat for wildlife. Our concerns stated that many ranchers could be faced with significant legal costs to defend their permits over such challenges.

In the section of Costs to Bison Management, our organizations see some deficiencies it the realization of actual costs to the Department to manage a potential bison population. One of the major concerns among our members is the Department would engage in a restoration project and then have a shortage of funds to adequately run the program. Our organizations also recommend that if a bison proposal moves forward, it be conducted in an area where there is local support.

The Montana Stockgrowers Association, Montana Association of State Grazing Districts and the Montana Public Lands Council will continue to engage in all facets of this decision making process and keep the members informed on any developments.

Livestock Groups Consider MOU for Brucellosis Management | Podcast

PodcastThe National Public Lands Council is hosting their annual meeting this week in Cody, Wyoming. Several Montana ranchers are taking advantage of the close proximity to attend the conference and meeting with public land users from across the country. Montana Stockgrowers and Montana Public Lands Council has several representatives at the meeting and we’ll be catching up later with Jay Bodner to learn more about the big topics of discussion coming out of the event.

Ranchers representing the Montana Public Lands Council in Cody this week include Vicki Olson of Malta and MPLC President, John and Joe Helle from Dillon, George Trischman from Sheridan and Johnny Schultz

Earlier, Montana Stockgrowers took part in a Tri-State Meeting prior to the PLC conference in Cody, to meet with representatives from our neighboring states of Idaho and Wyoming. MSGA Executive Vice President, Errol Rice, shares more about the topics discussed on the Stockgrowers podcast. As part of the meeting, the three states agreed to encourage state and federal agencies to create a working committee that will work toward better solutions for managing brucellosis in the Greater Yellowstone Area.

Click here to listen to today’s podcast on a new page.

Public Comment Period and Meetings on Bison Management

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There are a number of bison planning efforts underway that impact the state of Montana and so MSGA is providing a brief update on these planning documents and how members can become involved. The first effort is between the National Park Service (NPS) and the State of Montana, who are serving as joint lead agencies in the preparation of an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) for a plan to manage Yellowstone-area bison. As stated in their documents, the goal is to minimizing brucellosis transmission between these wild bison and livestock to the extent practicable.

NPS and State of Montana will be hosting a series of three public scoping open houses in Bozeman, Gardiner, and West Yellowstone, Montana. The open houses will have an identical format and agenda. The meetings will be held in Bozeman on June 2 at the Hilton Garden Inn, Gardiner on June 3 at the Gardiner School, and West Yellowstone on June 4 at the Holiday Inn. Each meeting will run from 6 to 8 p.m. and have an identical agenda.

This document planning process is in the scoping phase, which is the first opportunity to provide comments. The comment deadline is June 15, 2015. Comments can be submitted online at NPS Planning, Environment & Public Comment or by mail to:

Yellowstone National Park
Yellowstone Bison Management Plan EIS
PO Box 168
Yellowstone National Park, WY 82190

There are currently six preliminary draft alternatives, ranging from No Action alternative to year-round bison tolerance. This EIS is designed to update the 2001 Interagency Bison Management Plan (IBMP).

MSGA is currently reviewing these draft alternatives and will provide talking points to members and submit comments to the NPS. Even though this is the first phase in the planning process, MSGA has been active in communication with our Congressional delegation, APHIS and MT state agencies over impacts of bison to our members.

In addition, MT FWP is finalizing a Statewide Bison Conservation and Management EIS.  FWP has stated the development of this EIS is to address the potential for bison restoration in Montana. There have been four draft alternatives developed, ranging from No Action to bison being restored on public lands. FWP plans to release a draft in late May, followed by a 90-day comment period. MSGA, along with a number of members, attended a series of meeting held by FWP to discuss the development of this EIS. MSGA will once again be very involved in commenting on this document and providing talking points to members, upon its release.

Click here to visit the NPS website and learn more about Yellowstone’s Bison Management Plans.

Department of Livestock lifts vaccination requirements on imported cattle

Montana Department of Livestock DOLThe Department of Livestock no longer requires that female cattle imported into Montana be vaccinated against brucellosis.

The rule change became effective late last December after a 30 day public comment period and two public meetings.

After detecting two Montana herds affected with brucellosis late last year, state veterinarian Marty Zaluski acknowledged that now might seem like a strange time to lift this requirement.   However, he states this change fits right in with the state’s regional approach for managing the disease in cattle.

“We’ve spent the last 6 years proving that the risk of brucellosis is limited to areas with infected wildlife in the Greater Yellowstone Area,” said Zaluski.

The Department states that the rule is no longer necessary for much of the nation, which was declared Brucellosis Class Free in 2008 by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA).

The support for this change from the livestock community was widespread and included veterinarians, market owners, feedlot operators and ranchers.

“We were pleased that people took the time to provide us feedback on this proposed change,” Zaluski said.  “They wanted fewer hoops to jump through when importing cattle.”

Additional regulations make the costs of ranching greater, Zaluski added, and if those additional requirements do not protect Montana, then they should be reviewed and eliminated if possible.

Sexually intact female cattle traveling from states that have been brucellosis free for 10 years or more will no longer need to be vaccinated before traveling to Montana.

Brucellosis vaccination is required in the four Montana counties of Beaverhead, Gallatin, Madison and Park where brucellosis exists in wildlife.

Elk-Brucellosis Discussion in Bozeman January 17

Montana Fish Wildlife and Parks logoMontana Fish, Wildlife & Parks will host a half-day discussion on the Montana State University campus in Bozeman, Saturday, Jan. 17, on topics related to the transmission of brucellosis from elk to cattle in southwestern Montana.

FWP has assembled a diverse group of experts to discuss brucellosis in elk, disease genetics, and livestock investigation techniques and processes. A panel discussion among presenters will be facilitated by Dr. Mike Mitchell, leader of the University of Montana’s Cooperative Wildlife Research Unit.

“FWP has heard from some constituents about providing more information on the science that identifies elk as one possible source of brucellosis infection in cattle in parts of southwestern Montana,” said Jeff Hagener, director of FWP in Helena. “In response, we’ve assembled this presentation to illustrate that science.”

The session is designed to describe, inform and discuss data addressing the potential for some elk in southwestern Montana to infect livestock with brucellosis, a disease that can cause some pregnant bison, elk and domestic cattle to abort their first calf.

The talks are open to the public and are set for 8:30 a.m.—Noon on Jan. 17 at 101 Gaines Hall on the MSU campus. For a full agenda visit FWP online at; click “Fish & Wildlife”, then click “Elk“.

Public Meetings on Brucellosis Vaccination Set for Billings, Three Forks

Montana Department of Livestock DOLThe Montana Department of Livestock will hold public meetings in Billings and Three Forks on a proposed rule that would remove brucellosis vaccination requirements for cattle imported into Montana from states, provinces and territories that have been brucellosis-free for at least 10 years.

The proposal, said state veterinarian Dr. Marty Zaluski, is based on negligible risk of importing the disease from brucellosis-free areas.

“While this would be a change from the way we’ve done things in the past, the simple fact is that 46 states have been brucellosis-free for at least 10 years or more, and there is negligible risk of importing the disease from those states,” Zaluski said.

Zaluski said the proposal will benefit producers, who imported 151,690 head of cattle into Montana in 2013, by reducing regulation and vaccination costs, and eliminating the need for upon-arrival quarantines.

“The proposed rule will not impact our efforts on brucellosis surveillance and science-based prevention in areas of known risk in southwestern Montana,” Zaluski said.

Vaccination requirements for the four counties (Beaverhead, Gallatin, Madison and Park) within the state’s Designated Surveillance Area, where all female cattle and bison over four months of age must be vaccinated, would remain unchanged.

The meetings are scheduled for 1 p.m. on November 13 at Public Auction Yards (PAYS) in Billings, and for 10 a.m. on November 14 at Headwaters Livestock Auction in Three Forks.

Public comment on the proposed rule, which closes at 5 p.m. on November 19, may be submitted at the meetings, or via email at, U.S. postal mail at Montana Department of Livestock, P.O. Box 202001, Helena, MT 59610-2001, or fax at 406/444-1929.

The proposed rule can be viewed here.

United States Department of Agriculture

Walsh cosponsors bill to ‘beef up’ livestock industry

(The following is a press release from the office of Senator John Walsh) Montana ranchers applaud Senator’s leadership to improve resources for cattle ranching families

(US SENATE)—Senator John Walsh last week cosponsored legislation that improves and updates Agriculture Department resources for Montana ranchers.

The American Livestock Protection and Ranching Opportunity Act establishes a Livestock Disease Initiative and authorizes $5 million annually to study bovine brucellosis and other livestock diseases.  Walsh’s bill also prohibits the import of foreign beef until the USDA certifies the exporting country is totally free of Foot-and-Mouth Disease (FMD).

“Montana ranchers produce the highest quality beef in the world,” Walsh said.  “This bill protects local ranchers by investing in brucellosis prevention and emphasizing country of origin labeling.  We value our agriculture producers, they are stewards to the land in our great state, and our public policy should reflect that.”

Montana ranchers applaud Walsh’s leadership on this bill:

“We applaud Senator Walsh’s work to address some major issues our members face on a daily basis,” said Errol Rice, Executive Vice President of the Montana Stockgrowers Association. “We look forward to working with Senator Walsh and take on brucellosis and increase disaster support for Montana’s ranchers.” 

“Montana Farmers Union appreciates Senator Walsh’s sponsorship of a bill that addresses the concerns and contributions of Montana’s livestock producers,” said Montana Farmers Union President Alan Merrill.  “We value the Senator’s multi-pronged approach that supports livestock disease research, protects Montana markets by maintaining our foot and mouth disease-free status, and provides a mechanism to make adjustments to the Livestock Forage Program.  In addition, MFU members have long supported country-of-original labeling (COOL) and welcome the Senator Walsh’s strong statement of support.” 

“The most probable result will be that a FMD epidemic will crash the rural economy and seriously jeopardize this country’s economic recovery,” said Gilles Stockton, board member of Montana Cattlemen’s Association. “The proposition that we would import meat from counties with active FMD is just crazy. I commend Senator Walsh for being proactive on this issue and I hope his colleagues see reason and support this bill.”

The legislation also assists ranchers with feed costs in the Greater Yellowstone Area when they are under government-mandated quarantines for brucellosis, requires USDA to use most recent and accurate market prices in the Livestock Indemnity Program, and provides price adjustments in the Livestock Forage Program for high-value feed to help ranchers through drought situations.

Walsh is the only member of Montana’s congressional delegation on an Agriculture Committee.