December 2015
From the State Vet's Office

Cleaning Out the Cupboard

Occasionally, I need to update readers on a few topics that probably would not make for a good article. However, the Cooperative Farming News is one of my best ways to get information out to those in animal agriculture who need it. We generally publish rule changes and other pertinent information on our Alabama Department of Agriculture and Industries website, But I occasionally run across folks involved in animal agriculture who either don’t own a computer or prefer not to spend much time on it.

I do not want to miss the opportunity to tell the folks at the Cooperative Farming News that they provide me with a priceless medium to communicate with the animal agriculture segment of society. Most of my state veterinarian counterparts in other states who know about my monthly column in this news magazine are just a little envious.

I will admit that certain subjects like trichomonas, a venereal disease in cattle, may not be something that piques everyone’s interest. But if you happen to be a cattle producer who is bringing in a bull from another state, this little upcoming segment could be extremely important to you.

If you are not in the cattle business and are not importing bulls from another state, there still could be some benefit from being familiar with the rule change. Maybe you are in a group of people at the church social or in the break room at work and the conversation begins to lag. Then you can insert the question into the conversation, "Hey, have y’all heard about the new change in the State of Alabama Trich rule?" At that point, your audience will realize you are well-informed on a variety of subjects and you are likely far more intelligent than they had estimated. If fact, it will be kind of like when Goober on the "Andy Griffith Show" grew a beard and the Mayberry citizens automatically perceived him as being more intelligent because he looked more intelligent and distinguished. You start talking about trichomonas in cattle and how it causes transient infertility and that the disease is usually perpetuated on the male – your stock is automatically going up.

Trichomonas Rule Harmonization

Our current rules regarding importation of bulls over 18 months of age most likely changed as of the meeting of the Ag Board in November. We will no longer require a negative culture test for these bulls prior to entry. So the entry requirements will be: for bulls greater than 18 months of age they must be tested negative by a single Real Time PCR within 60 days, be officially identified and be accompanied by a Certificate of Veterinary Inspection with test information included.

Avian Influenza(Bird Flu) Update

Due to the recent outbreak of Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza an emergency rule is in place to become a permanent rule. All poultry entering the state must be from a flock participating in the National Poultry Improvement Plan AI Clean status or be tested negative for AI with 21 days prior to entry. Birds must be on a Certificate of Veterinary Inspection or accompanied with a copy of participating 9-3 or 9-2 NPIP form.

Animal Disease Traceability

We are moving forward with the Animal Disease Traceability program and will soon be providing guidance for stockyards, cattle producers and veterinarians to begin to utilize electronic tags and electronic health certificates. We have been trying to get the word out about our rule requiring cattle of breeding age to be identified with an official device at the time of change of ownership. Those approved devices are the metal ear tags that can be obtained through my office or the electronic identification tags that can be read with an electronic reader. The federal regulation requires these same cattle be identified before crossing state lines. All official identification devices must be associated with a specific premises number. If you have any questions about animal disease traceability, please contact my office at 334-240-7253. If you have any type of cattle producer meetings coming up you need more information for, we will try to accommodate whatever that need may be.

Diagnostic Laboratories Survive Budget Challenges … For Now

Back in early 2010, Commissioner McMillan had just taken the reins at the Department of Ag and Industries. I don’t know this to be a fact, but I suspect he would rather have not had to deal with the huge budget cuts we were dealt right after he arrived. Our department lost right at a quarter of our employees. I remember after we cut everything – we started bringing our own toilet paper when we came to work – the Commissioner asked me and another division head to cut another half million dollars each from our respective divisions. I told Commissioner McMillan that if I had to find a half million more dollars to cut, he could have our whole budget. We were already so thin it was a real challenge to get critical work done, especially at the labs. At that point we made a decision to increase fees to help make up for the shortfall. That had kept the wolves outside the door. But this year, we really sweated the challenge of how to continue to do what we need to do, especially with avian influenza a real threat.

Fortunately, the battles fought somewhere downtown yielded us enough to carry on another year. And it is a familiar song, "Doing more with less resources and less people." I am certainly concerned as we look at the next year and further down the road. It appears the 2017 budget may be leaner than the 2016. If you are involved in animal agriculture, it is something I would say is ok to lose sleep over. Maybe nothing bad will happen. Maybe bird flu will just fade away. Maybe no foreign animal diseases will occur in our state. I would still rather be accused of being paranoid that having someone say, "Dr. Frazier, you didn’t take those threats to animal agriculture seriously. Now look at the mess we are in." In the meantime, we watch and wait and keep our field personnel at the ready. It is a better plan than whistling while we walk past the cemetery.



Dr. Tony Frazier is the State Veterinarian for Alabama. You can contact him at 334-240-7253.