Montana to Exercise Animal Disease Response

The Montana Department of Livestock (MDOL) is collaborating with the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) and other state and local agencies to conduct an animal disease response exercise, May 8-10, 2018.

The three-day functional exercise will enable MDOL to practice the state’s animal disease response plan. Numerous federal, state and local government agencies will participate in the exercise, which will be based on an outbreak of foot-and-mouth disease (FMD) in the United States.

“Foot-and-mouth disease would have devastating consequences for Montana’s livestock industry and how we handle the initial response would be crucial,” said State Veterinarian Marty Zaluski. “Testing our response plan in an exercise format will be very beneficial and we look forward to participating in the exercise.”

Foot-and-mouth disease was last identified in the United States in 1929. FMD is a highly contagious disease of cattle, sheep, swine, goats, deer and other cloven-hooved animals. It is not a human food safety concern nor a public health threat; however, it is a major concern for animal health officials because it could have potentially devastating economic consequences due to disrupted trade and lost investor confidence. Montana is home to over 2.5 million head of cattle which bring around $1 billion each year in cash receipts.

“This exercise will be a positive experience that will make Montana’s livestock industry more resilient and better prepare us for an outbreak,” said MDOL Executive Officer Mike Honeycutt. “The public should not be concerned if they hear anything about foot-and-mouth disease during the days of the exercise.”

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

Governor Gets Final Say in Year Round Bison in Montana

Source: Northern Ag Network

If the Montana Department of Livestock and the Fish Wildlife and Parks can’t come to agreement on an issue of bison management, the governor gets to decide is the advice that the Montana Attorney General’s office is giving the Board of Livestock (BOL).  In this case, it means that Yellowstone Park bison will get to be in Montana year round.
In April, the BOL had received a letter from the governor stating that since they had been unable to come to agreement with the Fish Wildlife and Parks (FWP) regarding a management change to the Interagency Bison Management Plan (IMBP) to allow year round tolerance for bison in West Yellowstone and Gardiner, the governor would make the final decision and sign for them.

The BOL followed up to the Montana Attorney General’s Office, requesting a legal opinion regarding the legal roles of the agencies and the govenor in deciding the bison tolerance zone.  The AG’s office has responded with a confirmation of the Governor’s statement, that “on bison management issues, the two departments, Department of Livestock and FWP, must cooperate, and any management conflicts are resolved by the Governor.”
Mike Honeycutt, Executive Officer of the Department of Livestock outlined the AG’s response.  “The Department of Livestock has powers and duties to manage bison when they present a disease risk.  The Fish Wildlife and Parks has responsibility to manage wild bison when are not a disease risk.  If there is any potential for disease risk, FWP is supposed to cooperate with the Department of Livestock in that respect.”

“At the end of the day, if those two agencies can’t to come to an agreement on precise points of policy and how to get things done, the governor, as the executive of the state, has the power to make the decision for the agencies, tell them that this is where the lines are going to be and this is how each agency is going to carry out its legal responsibility around that decision that the governor has made,” Honeycutt said.
“I know that may not be an answer a lot of people in our industry want to hear.  I think they might have wanted to hear that the park boundary is the park boundary and that’s where we are supposed to push bison to,” acknowledged Honeycutt.

The BOL also asked for help to clarify the department’s responsibilities in bison management in the new tolerance zone.  The AG’s office responded that the state statutes in place are very clear.  Whether the border is the park boundaries or the new tolerance zone, the DOL’s job is to prevent disease transmission from the bison to cattle.

Honeycutt explained, “Our job, at this point from the Department of Livestock, is where maybe the old boundary was pushing all bison back to the park, our job now making sure that bison stay in the zones where they have tolerance and that our employees are keeping the separation between them and the cattle herds that will be grazing for the summer.

Honeycutt said “We are still in the position of making sure we maintain separation between potentially diseased bison and where cattle herds will be operating at.”

“We do not want potentially diseased bison occupying, in any shape or form, the same space that’s going to be occupied by summer grazing cattle.”

CLICK HERE to read a copy of the letter from the Attorney General’s office

State Veterinarian Appointed as Interim Executive Officer of Department of Livestock

Montana Department of Livestock DOLAccording to a press release from the Department of Livestock, Dr. Marty Zaluski has been appointed to serve as interim Executive Officer for the DOL. Zaluski assumed the interim role, vacated last week by the resignation of Christian Mackay, following a Board of Livestock meeting via conference call on Friday, September 25.

Dr. Zaluski has served as Montana state veterinarian in the DOL since 2007.

Also during Friday’s conference call, Marty Clark was chosen as the interim head of Brands Enforcement Division in the Department.

In the release, Chair of the Board of Livestock, John Lehfeldt stated, “The Board is excited to bring a seasoned employee such as Dr. Zaluski to this position to minimize any disruptions to Department operations.” Lehfeldt continued to express confidence in the direction of the Department to be on the right track moving forward.

Montana Stockgrowers will continue working with the Board of Livestock to provide input as they work to transition the Department’s leadership and identify the best candidates for the future of state’s livestock industry.

More information about the Department of Livestock can be found at

Department of Livestock Leadership Resigns

Montana Department of Livestock DOLThe Montana Board of Livestock convened in Helena September 21-22. Following Monday’s morning session, the Board of Livestock released information announcing the resignation of Executive Officer, Christian Mackay and John Grainger, Brands Division Administrator.

Mackay said he is leaving to pursue other interests and wishes the board and staff the best of luck in the coming months and years ahead. The Board of Livestock accepted his resignation.

“MSGA appreciates the service of Christian MacKay and John Grainger to Montana’s cattle and livestock industry. We appreciate the working relationship that we had with the Department of Livestock during their tenure and we wish them both the best of luck in their future endeavors”, said Errol Rice MSGA Executive Vice President. “MSGA looks forward to working with the Board of Livestock as they look to transition the department’s leadership.”

MSGA presented comments to the board during their deliberation of the FY16 and FY17 budget. The board took action to increase the cattle per capita fee from $2.15 per head to $2.19 per head. The MSGA board voted unanimously on August 27th to support allowing the board of livestock up to a 10 cent per head increase for per capita fees on cattle for their FY16 and FY17 budget cycle.

An industry-working group chaired by MSGA President Gene Curry, continues to offer input to the board of livestock on budgetary considerations, policies and procedure and board governance training.

More information about the Department and Board of livestock can be found at

UPDATED: The Board of Livestock also received the resignation of dairy industry representative, Jeff Lewis, during this week’s meeting.

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.

Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory Receives Full Accreditation

via Montana Department of Livestock

Montana Department of Livestock DOLThe Montana Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory in Bozeman is fully accredited for the first time since 2003.

Lab director Dr. Bill Layton received the good news late last month from the American Association of Veterinary Laboratory Diagnosticians (AAVLD) accreditation committee.

“This is a significant accomplishment for the laboratory and its customers,” Layton said. “In short, the committee is equating us with other, larger accredited laboratories, many of which are associated with veterinary colleges and have the support of a university system.”

The lab, which handles a vast majority of the diagnostic samples generated by Montana veterinarians, has been on provisional accreditation due to a series of issues related to funding, the facility and the need for an improved quality management system (QMS). While some of those issues are a work in progress, Layton said the lab was able to directly address the QMS issue.

Quality management systems, Layton said, look at all processes that could affect test results, including sample collection, choice of test kits, competency of the diagnostic technicians, delivery of results, and a thousand other details.

The lab didn’t have a full-time quality manager, Layton explained, until 2011 when the position was fully funded by a grant from the USDA-National Animal Health Laboratory Network. Now, after three years of hard work, the system is “exponentially better.”

“Prior to visiting, the accreditation site visit team was skeptical regarding the laboratory being able to develop and put into practice a system in a relatively short time. After the review, the site team was impressed with the laboratory’s progress and the quality in place,” Layton said. He credits his staff for “dedicating enormous amounts of time and effort into the building and implementation of the system while still completing their daily responsibilities.”

Accreditation is important, Layton said, because it represents an independent review of the laboratory to verify that the test procedures performed meet national and global standards required for animal disease surveillance that allows for animal and animal product movement.

MVDL Satisfaction Survey
A survey of Montana veterinarians conducted this past summer shows high usage and overwhelming satisfaction.

83% of the respondents use the lab, and 78% of those use it on a weekly-plus basis.

76% of the respondents were satisfied/very satisfied with the lab overall, while just 8% were dissatisfied/very dissatisfied.

85% of the respondents were satisfied/very satisfied with the lab’s responsiveness to technical questions and concerns.

93% of the respondents were satisfied/very satisfied with the professionalism and courteousness of lab staff.

See the complete survey at

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.

DOL Survey: High Use of Veterinary Diagnostic Lab, Satisfaction with Services

Montana Department of Livestock DOL(The following is a press release from the Montana Department of Livestock)

A recent survey of Montana veterinarians shows that they use the Montana Diagnostic Veterinary Laboratory in Bozeman, use it frequently and are overwhelmingly satisfied with the services it provides.

The survey, conducted in June and July, was designed to gauge veterinarians’ satisfaction with the lab and identify potential areas for improvement.

“We wanted to know how practicing veterinarians feel about the lab,” said Christian Mackay, executive officer for the Montana Board of Livestock. “We’ve always known that the lab receives a vast majority of the state’s diagnostic samples and has solid support, but we wanted some specifics.”

And according to the survey…

  • 83 percent of the respondents use the lab, and 78 percent of those use it on a weekly-plus basis.
  • 76 percent of the respondents were satisfied/very satisfied with the lab overall, while just 8 percent were dissatisfied/very dissatisfied.
  • 85 percent of the respondents were satisfied/very satisfied with the lab’s responsiveness to technical questions and concerns.
  • 93 percent of the respondents were satisfied/very satisfied with the professionalism and courteousness of lab staff.

“The numbers show high usage and a high rate of satisfaction,” Mackay said.

Other survey questions focused on satisfaction with turnaround time (84 percent satisfied/very satisfied), online instructions (57 percent satisfied/very satisfied), ordering of test materials (72 percent satisfied/very satisfied), and clarity of reports received from the lab (78 percent satisfied/very satisfied).

The two most common reasons for using the lab were convenience and cost, which were listed by 81 and 66 percent, respectively, of the survey’s respondents.

In addition to the survey questions, Mackay said respondents also provided useful information in the form of comments.

The survey, which was conducted on, was open to practicing Montana veterinarians – there are about 500 – and drew 136 respondents.

In a separate survey conducted by the Montana Veterinary Medical Association at its midsummer meeting, 93 and 90 percent of the respondents, respectively, said their practice and the state of Montana would be significantly impacted if the lab were closed. Ninety percent of the respondents in the same survey said they believe the lab plays a needed public health role.

“It’s pretty clear that the state’s veterinarians feel that the lab is an asset,” Mackay said.


Board of Livestock Creates Budget Subcommittee, Encourages Industry Participation

Montana Department of Livestock DOL(The following is a press release from the Montana Department of Livestock after their Board meeting on Tuesday, July 29, 2014. Minutes from the meeting will be available on the DOL website. The Montana Stockgrowers encourages ranchers and members to provide us with feedback. Please contact us through email or call (406) 442-3420.)

In an effort to address funding issues for the Department of Livestock, the Montana Board of Livestock has created a subcommittee for budget oversight, guidance and planning.

Board chair Jan French, a cattle rancher from Hobson, appointed board members John Scully (Ennis/cattle), Brett DeBruycker (Denton/cattle) and John Lehfeldt (Lavina/sheep) to the subcommittee at yesterday’s Board of Livestock meeting, and encouraged industry groups to take a seat at the table and help find solutions to recent funding shortfalls.

“It’s clear that we have some issues with the budget, and that industry is concerned,” French said. “So the best way to move forward is by communicating and working together.”

Errol Rice, executive vice president of the Montana Stock Growers Association, said the state’s oldest industry group plans on playing a prominent role and hopes that other groups will also get involved.

“It’s a positive move,” Rice said of the subcommittee. “We’re looking forward to working with the board members and representatives from other livestock industry groups on issues like the budget, cash flow and the diagnostic laboratory. We have to keep looking forward.”

French said the one-day meeting was busy and productive, including the formation of the subcommittee.

In other board news:

  • Market audit compliance officer Laura Hughes reported on the pending sale of Headwaters Livestock Auction in Three Forks.
  • The Animal Health Division proposed administrative rule changes for tuberculosis testing on elephants (ARM 32.3.227); for handling anthrax-infected carcasses (ARMs 32.3.1002 and 32.3.1001); for tuberculosis testing on cervids (ARM32.3.221 and 32.3.602a); and for repeal of a rule requiring brucellosis vaccination for imported cattle (ARM 32.3.212a and 32.2.212).
  • Attorney Rob Stutz updated the board on the state Supreme Court’s recent decision to reaffirm the board’s 12-day milk labelling rule after a lengthy legal battle.

The next board meeting has been scheduled for September 29-30.

Spring Includes Branding, Rodeo, and Helena Visit for MSU Collegiates

Collegiates MSGA OfficeThis Spring has been exciting and eventful for the Collegiate Stockgrowers at MSU. The month kicked off with a work crew heading to Harrison to brand at the Sitz Ranch, then proceeded to stay busy with some of the members spending a day in Helena at the MSGA office, and wrapping business up as we prepare to part ways for the summer.

In the midst of the MSU Rodeo, the club got a call that asked for a branding crew and members were more than eager to fill the role. A group consisting of five members set off on a road trip to Harrison, MT to represent the club at the Sitz branding. The day was a successful one with no injuries or accidents, and everyone was back in time to enjoy the Saturday night rodeo action!

Keeping the events rolling, a group of members was Helena bound on April 11. The group was able to tour the MSGA office to talk with Errol Rice, Jay Bodner, and Ryan Goodman about the issues the association deals with on a day to day basis.

Lunch was enjoyed at the Overland Express before heading to the Department of Livestock to talk to a few of the directors about brand inspection, diseases affecting livestock throughout Montana, and a day in the life of a Department of Livestock director. We greatly appreciate being able to visit with DOL Executive Director, Christian Mackay; Chair of the Board of Livestock, Jan French from Hobson; Brands Enforcement Director, John Grainger; and State Veterinarian, Marty Zaluski.

Collegiates Historical Society Trip

Following the visit to the Department of Livestock was a trip through the Montana Historical Society to see a special Charlie Russell exhibit partially sponsored by the Montana Stockgrowers Association.

In all, this Spring been a busy one filled with activities as the school year draws near the end. However, there has been just enough spare time to spend partaking in some fun activities with the Collegiate Stockgrowers. For more information, be sure to follow the MSU Collegiates on Facebook.

Collegiates 2014 Branding Sitz

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