The head of the Montana Department of Livestock gave several important updates during the Montana Stockgrowers Annual Convention and Trade Show this week in Billings.

One of the biggest issues ranchers are keeping a close eye on is the report of tuberculosis (TB) in a cow that came from a ranch on the Montana Hi Line earlier this summer. Several adjacent ranches have had their herds quarantined, but the good news is that TB has not been found in any of the adjacent herds.

Mike Honeycutt, the Executive Officer for the Montana Department of Livestock, gave me the latest update Wednesday morning from the convention floor:

Honeycutt: So we go back to August timeframe, we had a Montana origin animal that was slaughtered at a federally inspected slaughter facility in Minnesota. It had lesions that appeared to be TB, they were tested and confirmed to be TB inside the animal. From there we had to work back. With that ranch we did a whole herd test with that ranch. We did find positive animals in that resident herd. So then that puts us out to looking at all the neighbors, the adjacents, everybody that's grazed in common, everyone who's contributed animals to that herd everyone who's ever received animals from that herd in the last five years. So where that leaves us today is we have about 60 plus herds across Montana that are under quarantine pending testing to clear them to make sure that they don't have TB in their herds. We've not found TB outside of that initial positive herd, and we hope that that's what continues. We have about 9,200 cattle to test and we've gotten to about 4,500 of them here in the last few weeks.

Why is TB such a concern for cattle?

Honeycutt: It's very much a disease of concern because it can transfer to humans. Largely, I don't think we have a huge issue through our meat supply. But we do want to keep it out of our cattle population because it can transfer through dairy products, particularly if you're consuming raw or unpasteurized dairy products. That's a vector for it to get into the human population. So whether it's dairy or beef cattle, we want to keep those cattle herds free of tuberculosis.

I covered several other topics with Honeycutt, and had some fun with him talking about the TV show Yellowstone. Click below for the full audio.

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