PULLMAN — The testing of cattle for brucellosis has been greatly reduced in Washington after the federal government decided to send much of the work to a laboratory in Kansas.
Until October, the U.S. Department of Agriculture had been sending more than 100,000 slaughter surveillance samples a year to the Washington Animal Disease Diagnostic Laboratory in Pullman to be tested for the disease.
But agency veterinarian John Huntley said many of the samples now are sent to a facility in Kansas as part of the USDA’s nationwide brucellosis surveillance plan, The Moscow-Pullman Daily News reported Friday.
Brucellosis infections can devastate herds of cattle, and Jack Field of the Washington Cattlemen’s Association opposes the change.
“It’s very disappointing, to put it as politely as possible,” Field said. “The USDA’s decision demonstrates their ignorance and inability to recognize state-specific issues.
“We have some major problems in the greater Yellowstone area with endemic brucellosis outbreaks in wildlife spreading to livestock,” Field said.
At Washington State University in Pullman, Charlie Powell of the College of Veterinary Medicine said the USDA’s decision will not result in any drastic changes for the Pullman lab, as it gets plenty of work from other clients.
“Contracts come and go,” Powell said.
Earlier this month, U.S. Sen. Maria Cantwell, D-Wash., sent a letter to the USDA requesting that the agency reconsider its decision, which Field said reduces the number of brucellosis tests performed in Washington from 11,000 per month to about 4,500. U.S. Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., and several members of Congress also signed the letter.
Cantwell said proper surveillance is necessary to ensure that new cases of brucellosis are addressed quickly.
“While Washington cattle have been free of brucellosis since 1988, it is important that adequate sampling continue given the increased risk we face from the thousands of cattle moving from the high-risk greater Yellowstone area and Canada each month,” she wrote.
State veterinarian Leonard Eldridge said USDA officials feel that an adequate sample still will be tested in Washington.
Cantwell said the cattle industry contributes $473 million each year to the state’s economy.
Field plans to continue working to return the brucellosis testing to the Pullman lab.
“That’s certainly our hope,” he said.