Oklahoma's cattle population was officially declared free of brucellosis earler this month, after five decades of fighting to eradicate this costly disease. Gov. Frank Keating received the official certification that the state has achieved “brucellosis free” status from Dr. Craig Reed, administrator of the USDA Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS).

Dr. Reed presented the certificate to Keating during a press conference at the Oklahoma Department of Agriculture in Oklahoma City.

“I am proud to accept this certificate on behalf of the cattle industry in Oklahoma and all those involved who worked 46 years to overcome this difficult problem,” Keating said. “This declaration that the state is brucellosis free will be of considerable financial benefit to cattle producers and brightens the future for thousands of Oklahomans who make their living raising cattle”

Oklahoma Secretary of Agriculture Dennis Howard said the state'scattle producers and sale barn owners are to be commended for their sacrifices during the long fight, said . “Testing and vaccination programs required a great deal of effort, especially in the earlier days of this program,” Howard said.

“Our brucellosis-free status couldn't have been accomplished without the cooperation of all our cattle producers and livestock markets.”

State Veterinarian Burke Healey said that in 1998 and 1999, Oklahoma came close to being declared free of the disease, but infected herds were found just before the deadline each time. “For a state to attain ‘free’ status it must complete 12 consecutive months with no infected herds. The last known infected herd in Oklahoma was depopulated in November 1999,” Healey said.

Testing and surveillance will continue for several years to ensure that the state remains Brucellosis free, Healey says. “Florida had been declared free and lost their status due to re-infected herds. Missouri and Texas are the only states that never had their cattle herds declared Brucellosis free, and they are close to reaching that status. South Dakota was declared free in December,” he said.

Bobby Smith, vice chairman of the Oklahoma Beef Industry Council, said Oklahoma beef producers are committed to providing a dependable supply of beef. “We welcome this certification that signals the end of a costly disease in our breeding stock across the state,” he said.

The National Brucellosis Eradication Program began in 1934. At that time half of the nation's herds were infected. The first legislation providing authority for Brucellosis eradication activities in Oklahoma was passed in 1955. Testing in Oklahoma in the 1950s disclosed that 11 percent of the herds in the state were infected.

In the 1960s the known infected herd total was over 3,000, which declined to less than 1,000 during the early 1970s. In the 1980s a number of improvements in the eradication program resulted in significant progress in reducing the number of infected herds.

By 1990, the infected herd total had dropped below 100. In 1991, the infected herd total had dropped to a level that allowed Oklahoma to attain Class A status.