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From The
State Vet’s Office
by Dr. Tony Frazier

Something Worth Remembering 

There are some things you should never forget, like your anniversary, your spouse’s birthday, and your social security number. There are other things that are just worth remembering for what it took to accomplish them.

We celebrate the Fourth of July to remember what it took to gain our freedom as a nation. We celebrate religious holidays to remember what it took to gain another kind of freedom. But there are other events and accomplishments that are mostly kept alive in the memories and recollections of those who were involved. That is the case with the Alabama Brucellosis Eradication Program. The Program changed after Alabama became Brucellosis-Free in 1998. However, it will always be "something worth remembering."

While going through some old files not too long ago, we ran across one that contained some old and very interesting information about the National Bovine Brucellosis Eradication Program. A Progress Report, dated December 1958, stated that steady progress had been made since the Program began in 1934. It is interesting that the Brucellosis Program began about seventeen years before Alabama even had a State Veterinarian. It seems that the Program began as a cooperative effort between the USDA and the 48 state governments and qualifying territories.

Others actively participating in the program, in addition to individual livestock owners, were practicing veterinarians, Federal-State Extension Services, public health districts, and various livestock and educational groups. It also reported that at one time Brucellosis was the most widespread and most costly communicable disease affecting cattle in the United States.

It was a tremendous effort early on to get cattle producers to buy into the voluntary program. It was, however, not until the mid-fifties that USDA began to implement regulations that affected the interstate movement of reactor cattle. That was followed by regulations that affected stockyards that handled reactor cattle. While that was going on nationally, here in Alabama, we were slowly making progress by achieving certification levels in various counties across the state. To be a certified county, there had to be a certain percent of the purebred herds tested as well as a certain percent of the dairies. Cherokee County was the first county to be certified in the program.

As the Program evolved, testing of cattle at slaughter and testing of cattle going back to the farm from stockyards began to locate infected herds to be tested. There were probably two monumental events that took place that paved the way to eradicate the disease. First, the legislature passed a law that established a State of Alabama Brucellosis Eradication Program that gave the Board of Agriculture the authority to make regulations as needed to eradicate the disease here in Alabama. The second occurrence was the regulation that called for Change of Ownership Testing of all eligible cattle—either through sale at stockyards, private treaty, or special sales.

As with any type of regulatory program, it was not accepted with open arms by everyone involved. However, the success of the program was not that it was a government program, but that it benefited from buy-in by a large portion of the Alabama cattle industry.

That buy-in did not come automatically. As I understand, Dr. John Milligan, State Veterinarian at the time; Dr. Hines, USDA assistant area veterinarian in charge; Dr. J. Lee Alley, USDA epidemiologist (at the time), and a fellow named Hamm Wilson, the "Daddy" of the Alabama Cattlemen’s Association, took their show on the road. They went to county cattlemen meetings all over the state to explain the seriousness of the program and the need for producer cooperation.

Maybe it was that type of government-industry cooperation that was so instrumental in our eventually becoming a Brucellosis-free state. It was indeed a monumental task. At the peak of the program, the state was divided into 16 sections with a Veterinary Medical Officer and varying numbers of Animal Health technicians in each section. Over the years, hundreds of herds and thousands of cattle were tested. Portable panels and squeeze chutes were hauled thousands of miles as they moved from farm to farm.

A lot of the folks that worked so hard and gave so much of themselves to eradicate that costly livestock disease are no longer around. Many of the others are retired, but my goodness, what stories they can tell about conquering a tiny bacteria that you can’t even see with the naked eye. I suppose it is somewhat ironic that I was fortunate enough to have been a stockyard veterinarian when I was in practice, but it was even more special to me that when I went to work with the state, the last Brucellosis outbreak in the state was in my section where I was the Veterinary Medical Officer. I am glad I got to play a small part in waving goodbye to Bang’s Disease in our state.

A special thanks goes out to Dr. J. Lee Alley, Dr. Carl Wilson, Dr. Wally Hester, Dr. Don Cheatham and Dr. Curtis Chrisenberry. Also to the many, many other people who played any role in the Brucellosis Eradication, the Alabama livestock industry owes a large debt of gratitude. It is truly something worth remembering.



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Date Last Updated January, 2006