NAEBA Aims to Eliminate Interstate Bruc Testing for American Elk Herds

May 4, 2017

Western State Veterinarians Endorse Concept

A USAHA resolution could be the start of a major change in elk regulation for ranches in the United States.  Brucellosis is one of the three major diseases regulated by state animal health agencies. Most states require a negative brucellosis test before an elk can move interstate or the animal must originate from a Brucellosis certified herd.  

But NAEBA leadership is questioning the need for this testing. Over the last 50 years during the eradication of bovine brucellosis in cattle (in the United States), only wild elk and bison in the Greater Yellowstone Area (GYA) have prevented the eradication. Elk and deer in the other 47 brucellosis free states have never been identified as a reservoir for the disease or a public health risk.

There are no elk ranches located within the GYA. Therefore, they cannot legally enter animal commerce channels and are not an issue in regard to interstate shipment of brucellosis-infected elk.

NAEBA’s resolution, planned for USAHA’s 2017 conference, urges state regulatory officials to eliminate brucellosis testing requirements for interstate movement of farmed elk, red deer, and other cervid species that originate outside of the GYA. The resolution also urges the USDA APHIS to eliminate the brucellosis testing requirements, if and when, a federal rule for Brucellosis is published.

NAEBA recently appealed to the Western States’ Animal Health Association to support the change by proposing the resolution during the business meeting of the annual USAHA western region meeting held in New Mexico.

“We see this as a change that can improve the business climate for elk ranchers that does not compromise a state’s animal health program,” said Travis Lowe, who serves as NAEBA Executive Director.

There is precedent in the change.  In 2013, the USAHA membership approved a resolution to eliminate interstate testing requirements for whitetail deer and mule deer.  Subsequently, some states have proceeded to remove whitetail and mule from the testing requirements.

Feedback was overall positive. “The elephant in the room is the APHIS federal Brucellosis rule,” Lowe told state veterinarians in the room. “But we have been told by APHIS that the proposed rule is on indefinite hold for years so we cannot wait indefinitely to help business grow.”

During discussion, several state veterinarians noted the lack of risk by the proposed change. Dr. Dustin Oedekoven, who serves as South Dakota’s state veterinarian, made a motion for the western region to approve the resolution. The resolution was approved.

NAEBA and the cervid industry will continue discussions over the remaining months preparing for the USAHA conference in October.

“There is a long road ahead to make these changes happen but this is a great first step,” Lowe told NAEBA’s executive committee. “States are willing to make this change. This is a major goal for NAEBA.”

 NAEBA deeply appreciates the thoughtful input from state veterinarians as they look at science. Lowe added, “We are extremely humbled and grateful for the folks that supported the resolution.”

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