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State Animal Health Officials Discuss Live CWD Test

July 15, 2015
American Cervid Alliance

NAEBA Suggests Live Test Use for Herd Management


DENVER- Progress was made this week in hopes of finding better ways to manage elk and deer farms that are affected by Chronic Wasting Disease. Finding Chronic Wasting Disease in farmed herds in extremely rare but the lack of an approved ante-mortem (live) test leaves the producers to deal with a financially devastating procedure.  

As the cervid industry keeps a close eye on Texas as it deals with the recent positive CWD case in a whitetail herd, discussions took place in Denver regarding the potential of vetting an ante-mortem test for Chronic Wasting Disease. 


The Western District of the United States Animal Health Association and Western States Livestock Health Association met in Denver this week for their 2015 annual meeting. During the business meeting, Travis Lowe – Executive Director of the North American Elk Breeders Association, Eric Mohlman – Chairman of the Elk Research Council and Wyoming Assistant State Veterinarian Bob Meyer gave a presentation illustrating the success of the rectal biopsy in elk and deer research. 

In the last several years, research has been completed using many different methods of a live test for CWD.  Researchers from Kansas State University and Colorado State University have helped taken hundreds of samples from farmed deer and elk herds when herd depopulations were ordered. These research opportunities have been made possible by funding assistance from industry producers along with the Elk Research Council and the North American Deer Farmers Association. 


The Elk Research Council, which serves as the North American Elk Breeders Association’s 501(c)(3) foundation, asked Dr. Bob Meyer to compile the results of the research’s numerous studies. Dr. Meyer, who has decades of experience as an epidemiologist, presented summary conclusions to state animal health officials that results of the rectal biopsy test has been very positive as an ante-mortem test. NAEBA Executive Director Travis Lowe followed up Dr. Meyer by stating the rectal biopsy could be useful for CWD positive/exposed herds rather than the usual practice of complete depopulation followed by expensive cleanup.  Since indemnity at the state and/or federal level is questionable at best, better long-term solutions need to be available. It was stated there is no intention of having the rectal biopsy test replace the existing monitoring programs or for certification purposes. Comments from the audience were supportive of keeping the conversations moving over the coming months. 


These discussions come at a time when the Texas Deer Association, Deer Breeders Corporation, Exotic Wildlife Association and the North American Deer Farmers Association are working to look for the best approaches possible in dealing with Chronic Wasting Disease for the first time in farmed whitetail deer within Texas’ borders. Chronic Wasting Disease has previously been found in free-ranging Mule Deer in far west Texas.


The American Cervid Alliance Leadership Council will discuss updates from Texas and the USAHA Western meeting during its next meeting.  The ACA thanks Dr. Meyer for his efforts over the last several months.