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FAQ - Brucellosis & the Designated Surveillance Area

1. What is the history of brucellosis in Montana?
In 1934, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) began national brucellosis eradication efforts in livestock, including the development of a vaccine. In 1952, Montana began an aggressive program to eliminate brucellosis from its livestock industry. After more than three decades of eradication efforts and an expenditure of more than $30 million by the Montana livestock industry, the state obtained its Brucellosis Class Free status in 1985.
From 1985 until May 2007, no brucellosis was found in Montana’s livestock. In May 2007, brucellosis was confirmed in one Montana cattle herd (Carbon County). Subsequently, In June 2008, brucellosis was confirmed in a second Montana cattle herd (Park County).

In September 2008, because of these two infected herds within a two-year period, USDA downgraded Montana’s brucellosis status from Class Free to Class A. The Department of Livestock (MDOL) developed and implemented the Brucellosis Action Plan (BAP) in May 2009.
Montana regained its Class Free status in July 2009. However, there is a continued risk of livestock exposure to brucellosis from infected Yellowstone elk and bison. To manage this risk and to protect the marketability of Montana cattle and domestic bison, the Montana Board of Livestock adopted official order 10-01-D after the Brucellosis Action Plan sunset in January 2010. These regulations were then written into Administrative Rules of Montana (ARM) in January of 2011. [Top]
2. Was there any evidence that Mexican cattle were the source of brucellosis in this herd?
No epidemiological link to Mexican or “M-Branded” cattle was found. Although the herd in the 2008 case consisted of Corriente cattle, all were native to the U.S. The infected heifer, as well as her herd mates, originated from Montana. Additionally, the dam of the infected heifer tested negative twice. It appears only coincidental that this herd was a Corriente herd and the herd affected with brucellosis in 2007 had some Corriente cattle. [Top]
3. What was the source of brucellosis in the Montana herds in 2007 and 2008?
Based on the extensive testing performed as part of the 2007 and 2008 investigations and genetic analysis of the isolated Brucella abortus bacteria, it was determined that the likely source was Brucella-infected elk in the Greater Yellowstone Area.
A DNA “fingerprint” analysis provided additional insight into the 2007 affected cattle herd. The analysis states that Brucella isolated from wildlife near Yellowstone National Park show a “close DNA kinship, by Brucella standards” to the 2007 isolate. Therefore, while not entirely eliminating the concern over more widely distributed wildlife brucellosis, this new information supports MDOL's prior conclusion that exposure took place in the Greater Yellowstone Area. [Top]
4. Do animals that receive adult vaccination (brucellosis vaccine booster) test brucellosis positive?
Since 1996, a new vaccine called RB51 has been commonly used. Animals vaccinated with RB51 do not test positive on diagnostic tests. Even animals vaccinated with RB51 several times will remain negative on blood tests.
Animals vaccinated until 1996 received Strain 19 brucellosis vaccine. Diagnostic tests could not differentiate between an infected and a vaccinated animal. This was particularly true if an animal was vaccinated more than once. [Top]
5. What was the BAP?
The Brucellosis Action Plan (BAP) was a temporary plan aimed at regaining Montana’s Class Free status that sunset, as scheduled, six months following the return of that status. [Top]
6. What was official order 10-01-D?
Following the sunset of the BAP, Official Order 10-01-D outlined continued brucellosis surveillance and mitigation in an area where a risk exists for livestock interaction with brucellosis-infected wildlife.
This order, developed by a working group that included livestock producers, veterinarians, livestock market operators and representatives from industry organizations such as the Montana Stockgrowers Association, Montana Cattlemen's Association and Montana Farm Bureau Federation, established an area known as the Designated Surveillance Area (DSA).
The implementation of this order and documentation of continued monitoring (livestock testing) provided assurance to trading partners to maintain the marketability of Montana livestock. [Top]
7. When did the Designated Surveillance Area (DSA) become effective?
Official Order 10-01-D, which created the DSA and associated testing requirements within, went into effect in January 2010. This official order also implemented an Official Calfhood Vaccination (OCV) for brucellosis (Bangs vaccination) requirement in the entirety of Beaverhead, Madison, Gallatin and Park Counties (counties in which the DSA is located), along with traceability requirements (individual identification) for animals within the DSA. [Top]
8. What are the current regulations for the DSA?
The DSA was written into Administrative Rules of Montana (ARM 32.2.433-32.3.437) effective in January of 2011 with some revision in July of 2011. [Top]
Montana Designated Surveillance Area (DSA) movement and sale requirements
For Inspections Done: July 16- Feb 15
Class of Animal
*Brucellosis test Required?
Test Valid for:
Identification required
Prior to movement?
12 Mo & Older: Sexually intact
30-210 days (a test done July 16 or after is good thru Feb 15)
0-11 Mo: Sexually intact
Steers and Spayed heifers
*A test is NOT required if moving to a Montana Livestock Market or directly to slaughter (animals will be tested at these destinations).
**Some Variances may have been written into a “Brucellosis Prevention and Surveillance Herd Management Plan” (Herd Plan). Please NOTE the reference number on the inspection.
Montana Designated Surveillance Area (DSA) movement and sale
Feb 16-July 15
Class of Animal
*Brucellosis test Required?
Test Valid for:
Prior to movement?
12 Mo & Older: Sexually intact
**30 days
0-11 Mo: Sexually intact
Steers and Spayed heifers
*A test is NOT required if moving to a Montana Livestock Market or directly to slaughter (animals will be tested at these destinations).
**Some Variances may have been written into a “Brucellosis Prevention and Surveillance Herd Management Plan” (Herd Plan). Please NOTE the reference number on the inspection. 
9. What are the boundaries of the DSA (see map)?
·         Park County – south of Interstate-90.
·         Gallatin County – south of Interstate-90 from Park-Gallatin county line to Bozeman, then south of Hwy 84 from Bozeman to Gallatin-Madison County line.
·         Madison County – south of Highway 84 from Gallatin-Madison County line to Norris, then east of U.S. Highway 287 from Norris to Ennis, then south of State Highway 287 from Ennis to Alder, then east of State Rd. 357 (Upper Ruby Road) to Sweetwater Road, then south of Sweetwater Road to the Madison-Beaverhead County line; and
·         Beaverhead County – from Madison-Beaverhead County line, south of Sweetwater Road to East Bench Road near Dillon, then south of East Bench Road to Blacktail Road, then East of Blacktail Road to North Valley Road then north and east of North Valley Road to Stibel Lane, then east of Stibel Lane, which becomes Price Lane, to South Valley Road. , then south of South Valley Road to Price Peet Road, then east of Price Peet Road to the Montana/Idaho border. [Top]
10. How large of an area is the DSA?
Montana’s DSA covers approximately 6,000 square miles or 4% of the State. [Top]
11. How were the boundaries determined?
The DSA circumscribes the geographical area in southwest Montana where brucellosis-positive elk are known or thought to exist. In this area, co-mingling of elk and livestock, and livestock exposure to tissue containing Brucella, is possible. This area has been defined by MDOL with consultations from the Montana Department of Fish Wildlife and Parks (FWP). Input from FWP included data on distribution, movement patterns, numbers and brucellosis testing results compiled during routine and elk capture surveys, research, hunter check stations and/or other management actions. [Top]
12. Why do we need a DSA?
The only remaining reservoir of Brucella abortus in the U.S is free ranging elk, and wild bison, within the Greater Yellowstone Area. Continued brucellosis surveillance and mitigation within the DSA assures our trading partners and other state veterinarians that Montana is doing all it can to prevent the possible movement of brucellosis-infected livestock to their state. [Top]
13. How long will the DSA be in place?
The DSA Administrative Rules will be reviewed periodically by the Montana Board of Livestock. However, it is likely that as long as the risk of brucellosis transmission from infected wildlife exists, a need for surveillance and mitigation will continue. [Top]
14. How do I know if I am affected by the DSA?
Producers who manage cattle and domestic bison within the DSA (see map) will be affected by the regulations. MDOL encourages producers who manage livestock within this area to contact the department to develop an official herd plan. [Top]
15. Do the regulations include testing requirements for intrastate (within Montana) movement of animals?
All test eligible (sexually intact cattle or domestic bison 12 months of age or older) managed within the DSA must be tested 30 days prior to movement. Some variances may be possible through the development of a herd plan such as: Testing completed after July 15 is accepted until February 15 of the following year (seven months). [Top]
16. Who can I contact if I have questions regarding the DSA and the regulations?
Questions regarding the DSA can be directed to Dr. Eric Liska, Brucellosis Program Veterinarian (406-444-3374) or Leslie Doely, Brucellosis Program Specialist (406-444-9622), or by mail at: Montana Department of Livestock, Brucellosis Program, PO Box 202001, Helena, MT 59620-2001. [Top]
17. What is an official herd plan and how can I get a herd plan developed?
An official herd plan is an agreement developed cooperatively between MDOL and an individual producer. It outlines mitigation and surveillance techniques based on risk and management practices. Variances to some of DSA requirements may be allowed with the development of a herd plan. [Top]
Contact Dr. Eric Liska, Brucellosis Program Veterinarian (406-444-3374) or Leslie Doely, Brucellosis Program Specialist (406-444-9622) with questions or to schedule a meeting, Department of Livestock (406-444-2043). [Top]
18. How will the DSA regulations be enforced?
MDOL, through local and department brand inspectors, will be responsible for ensuring compliance. [Top]
19. Are there any brucellosis (“Bangs”) vaccination requirements?
Yes. Within the entirety of the counties in which the DSA is located (Beaverhead, Gallatin, Madison and Park counties), all female cattle and domestic bison 4 months of age and older as of January 1 of any year must be Official Calfhood Vaccinates (OCV). See ARM 32.3.436/Vaccination within the Counties in which the DSA is located. [Top]
20. Do I have to Bangs vaccinate feeder heifers?
Yes, if they remain within Beaverhead, Gallatin, Madison or Park Counties.
No, if the heifers are spayed or sold out of these four counties prior to January 1 of the following year and prior to 12 months of age. However, if they have been within the DSA they must be officially identified. [Top]
21. I have some old cows that were never vaccinated against brucellosis. Can I have them vaccinated now?
The regulations require that all females remaining in Beaverhead, Gallatin, Madison and Park Counties are vaccinates. Official vaccination at an age older than 12 months is called Adult Vaccination (AV). At this time the MDOL recommends against vaccinating pregnant animals. Cows should be vaccinated when not pregnant using a full (2cc) dose and as early as possible prior to bull exposure, especially if they have never been vaccinated with brucellosis vaccine before. Animals must be individually identified, a brucellosis vaccination certificate completed by your veterinarian, and a copy mailed to the MDOL. An AV tattoo is recommended if no other brucellosis vaccine tattoo exists. All brucellosis vaccinations must be performed by a licensed veterinarian. [Top]
22. My cattle are around a lot of elk in the DSA in the spring. Should I consider adult vaccination of my entire herd?
Yes. Vaccine-produced immunity for a calf vaccinated at an age less than 12 months of age may only last 3-6 years. For this reason, many cattle producers within the DSA are adult vaccinating their herds every 2-3 years. Research suggests that adult vaccination of cattle is highly protective against brucellosis-caused abortions and infection. [Top]
23. Who pays for the brucellosis vaccination of my cattle?
Official Calfhood Vaccination (OCV) costs are the responsibility of the cattle owner and should be a Best Management Practice to protect your cattle herd. Adult Vaccination costs are reimbursed directly to the accredited veterinarian performing the service at $4.00 per head. [Top]
24. Are there any identification requirements for the DSA?
Yes, ARM 32.3.434/Animal Identification within the DSA requires all sexually intact cattle and domestic bison leaving the DSA to be identified with official individual identification. [Top]
25. Who will be paying for the brucellosis testing?
With money appropriated through House Bill 2, MDOL is currently reimbursing veterinary practitioners ($7.50-$12.00/head) or auction market veterinarians ($7.50/head in addition to $1.00/head chute fee) directly for testing. $2.00 per test is also available to Montana DSA producers to help offset costs associated with testing. Veterinarians and producers will need to submit a completed W-9 form (if one has not already been submitted earlier) along with the Veterinarian Reimbursement Form or Producer Reimbursement Form. [Top]
26. Will I have to test my animals if I move animals INTO the DSA for seasonal grazing?
Testing will not be required to move animals into the DSA. Testing is required within 30 days prior to moving animals out. However, testing variances for seasonal movements for grazing purposes will be considered on a case-by-case basis through the development of a herd plan. Also, please see #21 and 22. [Top]
27. Will I have to test my animals if I move them OUT OF the DSA for seasonal grazing?
All test-eligible animals moving out of the DSA must be tested no more than 30 days prior to movement and change of ownership unless they go through a Montana Livestock market (they will be tested at the market) or it is otherwise stated in your herd plan. However, with a herd plan, animals that enter the DSA after June 15 (end of high-risk period) and are removed prior to January 16 (start of the high-risk period) will not need a brucellosis test. [Top]
28. Will I have to test my animals if I move them from the DSA to another state for seasonal grazing?
This will be determined by the state veterinarian in the destination state. Montana and neighboring states utilize seasonal grazing permits for producers that graze livestock seasonally in adjacent states. Producers grazing in other states should submit an application for a Seasonal Grazing Permit, which will subsequently be reviewed and approved by the Montana State Veterinarian and the state veterinarian of the neighboring state. In addition to the Seasonal Grazing Permit, DSA producers should also complete a herd plan. Testing variances will be considered on a case-by-case basis, but ultimately at the discretion of the state veterinarian in the destination state. [Top]
29. If I manage cattle or domestic bison in the DSA all year, will I have to test animals when I sell them?
Yes. All sexually intact cattle or domestic bison 12 months of age and older that are managed in the DSA all year will be subject to testing if they are sold. Also see ARM 32.3.435/Testing Within the DSA for specifics. [Top]
30. If I manage cattle or domestic bison in the DSA, will I have to test animals I sell to a family member if the animals do not leave my ranch?
Yes; however, if the change of ownership occurs between family members and the location of the animals remains the same, an exemption to the change of ownership test can be granted. [Top]
31. If I manage cattle or domestic bison in the DSA, will I have to test animals at my ranch prior to selling them at a Montana livestock market?
No. Although such animals are subject to change of ownership testing, this testing can be performed at any of Montana livestock market, even if the market is outside the DSA. MDOL will pay the auction market veterinarians to perform the testing. [Top]
32. If I manage cattle or domestic bison in the DSA, will I have to test animals if they are shipped directly to slaughter?
No. Animals shipped directly from a farm or ranch to an approved slaughtering facility will not need to be tested prior to shipment. Because these animals are going directly to slaughter and can readily be traced back to the ranch-of-origin and brucellosis testing is conducted at all state and federally inspected slaughter facilities, testing prior to shipment directly to slaughter is not required. [Top]
33. Do I have to test my animals to ship them to another state?  
All sexually intact male and female cattle or domestic bison 12 months of age or older leaving the DSA must be tested less than 30 days prior to change of ownership or at the time of sale at a Montana livestock auction. [Top]
34. What happens if we find a brucellosis-positive cow?
Under current rules utilized by USDA-APHIS, Montana’s brucellosis class status will not be affected by additional cases because the state has implemented appropriate surveillance and risk mitigation measures. USDA-APHIS no longer requires the depopulation of the initial herd in which a test-positive cow is found; instead, the affected herd would be quarantined for testing to remove all positive animals and a complete epidemiologic study (testing of adjacent, contact and trace herds) would be conducted. [Top]
35. My main ranch is outside of the DSA but I use ground inside the DSA. How am I affected?
Development of a ranch specific herd plan will define testing needs specific to your operation. [Top]
36. When do I need to have my herd tested?
Entire herd testing is not required except in cases of an epidemiologic study, for certified brucellosis-free herd status, or the sale of an entire herd. However, MDOL strongly encourages periodic entire herd testing for DSA herds. This allows for the early detection of disease within a herd. [Top]
37. How much will it cost me to have my cattle tested?
Testing costs will be reimbursed directly to the veterinarian performing the tests. Therefore, producers should not be charged for testing. Any costs other than for brucellosis testing (such as a ranch call, pregnancy testing, calfhood bangs vaccinations) are the responsibility of the livestock owner. [Top]
38. How long is my herd plan effective?
Herd plans will be reevaluated annually but may outline mitigation and prevention strategies for up to three years. [Top]
39. If I summer graze cattle in the DSA only, will they need to be tested?
Not necessarily. If you have developed a herd plan and your animals graze (enter the DSA) after July 15 and come off of grass (leave the DSA) prior to January 15, you likely will not need to have your animals tested. [Top]
40. What are the high- and low risk-periods for brucellosis transmission?
The high risk period is considered to be January 15 through June 15 of each year. This is the period beginning with the elk abortion (from brucellosis) period to the end of elk calving (full term calving). The low risk period is June 16 through January 14 of each year. [Top]
41. How long is a negative test accepted?
If an animal is tested July 15 (30 days after the end of the high-risk period), the test is accepted through February 15 (30 days into the high-risk period). Testing done between February 16 and July 15 is accepted for 30 days. [Top]
42. I’m located within the DSA. I rarely see elk on my property. Why do I need to have my cattle tested?
The DSA is an area in which elk may exist during the high-risk period and an infection if cattle is possible. It is important to note that Brucella abortus can survive on aborted or placental tissue for up to 87 days (in late winter). [Top]
43. Who do I contact to have my cattle tested on my ranch?
Any deputy state veterinarian (your local veterinarian) may perform brucellosis testing. If are unable to schedule testing with your local veterinarian, you may contact the MDOL and a MDOL veterinarian will likely be able to perform the testing. [Top]