It’s been a difficult year for cattle ranchers in Montana with low beef prices, but the discovery of Brucellosis at a small ranch in Beaverhead County could make times even tougher for ranches in the area. Montana Department of Livestock Doctor Erik Liska explains how the disease was discovered.

"They were doing a voluntary surveillance entire herd test, which is normal within the designated surveillance area, which is the area in Beaverhead, Gallatin and Madison Counties, where brucellosis is found in wildlife and periodically is transmitted to livestock. They were forming a voluntary test on their herd and found two animals that were serologically positive."

The U.S. cattle industry has been fighting the disease since the early 1900’s because it can cause females to abort young and lead to inflammation around the heart. It can also be transferred to humans, with the same side effects. Liska says that wildlife most likely spread the disease to the ranch.

"Within our designated surveillance area, most of the time it is elk and most likely it is elk, but we will do an adjacent "herds study" none the less to confirm that there was no transmission between herds next door or near them," Liska said. "We will do the entire epidemiological investigation to confirm the most likely source is infected wildlife."

Liska says the three-county designated surveillance area has been in place since 2010 and that Brucellosis has been discovered on eight ranches since that time. The ranch is currently under quarantine and will remain so until three consecutive tests confirm the heard is brucellosis free.