Livestock inspections protect cattle, horses

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Hunting season brings many visitors to Moffat County, and some of those visitors may be carrying diseases across state lines.

Checkpoints have been set up on some Moffat County roads to ensure hunters, ranchers and livestock owners are following Colorado and Wyoming livestock regulations. The primary aim of the checkpoints is to ensure health regulations are followed to prevent the spread of livestock and equine diseases such as Equine Infectious Anemia (EIA).

Livestock and law enforcement officials from Colorado and Wyoming operate the checkpoints, and they stop virtually every vehicle transporting livestock or horses. A checkpoint near Craig had inspected 15 loads between 9 a.m. and 2:30 p.m. Thursday, and found no violations, according to Jim Foster, a livestock inspector with the Colorado Department of Agriculture and the State Veterinarian's Office.

"Two of the main things we're looking for is that all horses have current health certificates and that they've had a Coggins test," Foster said.

The Coggins test checks the animal for EIA, which is a highly infectious viral disease in horses.

The disease reproduces in blood cells and circulates throughout the body. The horse's immune system, via antibodies, attacks and destroys the infected red blood cells. The reduced blood count causes anemia, and associated inflammation can damage vital organs.

"There's no cure," Foster said. "The only logical thing you can do is euthanize the animal. You can quarantine the animal, but you have to keep it fenced off and at least 100 yards away from other animals. It's just not feasible." The other problem is that EIA is transmitted via blood, so blood-sucking insects are a primary vehicle of transmission, which makes spread of the disease difficult to control.

Foster said regulations for equine and livestock vary from state to state, and Colorado is stricter than many states. For that reason, it is imperative to operate these checkpoints to ensure local livestock are not endangered by out-of-state horses and cattle.

Kelly Hamilton, a livestock inspector from Wyoming, and Grant Wilson a stock inspector from Colorado also work at the checkpoints to inspect brands and other livestock issues.

Hamilton said rustling is still a problem in the livestock industry, and it is one that costs Wyoming $750,000 every year.

While some may view the checkpoints as an inconvenience, Foster said most ranchers and horse owners in Moffat County encouraged the Department of Agriculture to run the checkpoints.

"This area attracts a lot of hunters with their horses," Foster said, "and people want to make sure the Colorado regulations are being followed."

The checkpoints will continue to move around the area during the hunting season, Foster said, so those who are transporting livestock or horses, should have the required health and ownership documentation on hand.

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