JOHN DAY – The Grant County Stockgrowers are inviting all local cattle producers to weigh in on a possible ordinance to deal with the risks of “trich” in bulls in the county.
The group will meet at 6 p.m. Thursday, May 22, in Keerins Hall on the Grant County Fairgrounds.
Trich, pronounced “trike,” is short for trichomoniasis, a venereal disease spread from infected bulls to breeding cows.
Willis Kimball, Stockgrowers president, told the Grant County Court last week the group hopes to get an ordinance to require testing or spell out the liability in an outbreak.
State statistics show that Grant County had two confirmed cases of trich this year. Harney had one, and Malheur had three.
Bulls infected with the disease must be put down, a loss of several thousand dollars per animal to the owner.
But an outbreak can have a larger cost to the owner of the cows infected by a bull. Trich causes cows to abort their calves.
The cows will “clean up” and be able to breed again, but not until later, so the producer loses the value of the calves, the breeding window for those cows, and also the investment in the future of the herd.
Kimball said the rancher could lose 35-40 percent of his calf crop, and also would need to slaughter any infected bulls.
“It could be devastating,” he said.
He said the biggest threat so far has been from infection brought from outside the county. He said untested animals may carry the disease they contracted elsewhere when they are moved onto leased pasture in the county.
If those bulls are used to breed, or if they break through a fence to get to a neighbor’s cows, they could wipe out an entire operation.
Kimball said the ranching community is aware of the threat, but not yet united on how to deal with it.
There’s some resistance to universal testing, as rounding up a herd of 2,400-pound bulls for that purpose can be a logistical challenge.
“You get all those bulls together, and they start to fight with each other,” Kimball said. The result can be a lot of damage to both the bulls and property.
The testing costs about $55 per bull.
He said the ordinance could be drafted various ways; the strictest would require trich-testing for all bulls on public or private land in the county. A less onerous ordinance might simply lay out the liability for someone who brings in an infected bull that then infects a herd and damages a rancher’s livelihood.
Kimball said he hopes for a good turnout at the meeting to help determine the best course.
“We want all the producers to have a say in this,” he said.
Members of the Court agreed too have county counsel Ron Yockim consult with the ranchers on any ordinance proposal that might come back to the court for consideration.