Photo by Brian McCord/Farm Flavor Media

From inspections and licensing to awareness and education, Wisconsin Division of Animal Health (DAH) helps protect the state’s multibillion-dollar livestock industry so markets are open for farmers and agribusinesses – not to mention, its important role protecting human health. The division is part of the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection. A closer look at how division operations benefit both producers and consumers shows why this regulatory body is pivotal to maintaining the state’s thriving agriculture industry.

How the Producer Benefits

Based in DeForest, ABS Global Inc. is a leader in bovine genetics, reaching roughly 68 countries with their product. To ensure each importing country’s requirements are met, ABS Global works diligently with the division, including routine testing for animal diseases like tuberculosis, brucellosis and vesicular stomatitis.

“Any of these diseases would be detrimental to our business and could close markets. As a partner, we are kept informed of new potential disease risks by State Veterinarian Dr. Paul McGraw and his team at the division. Trusting that they always have our back is one of the reasons we are successful,” says James T. Meronek, DVM, MPH, health assurance and supply chain director with ABS Global.

As State Veterinarian, Dr. McGraw works closely with members of the livestock industry statewide, and routinely meets with industry representatives to discuss program changes, diseases of concern and reporting protocol for foreign animal diseases.

“The division relies on several tools, including disease surveillance, record-keeping requirements, quarantines and controls on movements of animals within the state and across state lines,” Dr. McGraw says. For example, the division requires that a certificate of veterinary inspection accompany all animals imported into Wisconsin.

Another way the division helps contain disease threats is by requiring licenses for animal markets, animal dealers, animal truckers, deer farms and fish farms. The division also administers the livestock premises registration program, which significantly increases ability to respond rapidly to a disease incident.

Photo by Jeff Adkins/Farm Flavor Media

On the poultry side, Bill MacFarlane, the owner and president of MacFarlane Pheasants in Janesville, understands the widespread concerns for avian influenza and participates in a DAH emergency group that discusses responses to disease outbreaks.

“We want to have a plan in advance on how people within the industry are going to work together. We have also taken our own farm veterinarian to meet with Dr. McGraw to discuss how to handle different problem scenarios. He has always treated us with a lot of respect and acknowledges our concerns,” MacFarlane says.

Furthermore, MacFarlane feels this open-door policy has helped grow business: “We have been expanding into export markets and Dr. McGraw and his staff have been very helpful in communicating with us to acquire certain permits and health certificate requirements.”

Although relationships between business and regulatory bodies are often portrayed in a negative light, both Meronek and MacFarlane agree that this has not been their experience. Instead, the animal health division extends a cooperative attitude and the desire to help businesses comply with regulations, which helps them get into markets and maintain a good public image.

Georgia poultry lab

Photo by Jeffrey S. Otto/Farm Flavor Media

How the Consumer Benefits

Without the division working hand in hand with producers to prevent, diagnose and control animal disease, there’s no doubt that the welfare of consumers would be at stake. But thankfully, this is a responsibility that has long been upheld.

“Wisconsin has a rich history of leading in U.S. animal health. We can be sure DAH will do what is right for Wisconsin agriculture and protect consumers,” Meronek says.

MacFarlane confirms that “there are a lot of safeguards in place with the inspection of poultry and the goal is always that the product the consumer gets is something they can trust. DATCP and DAH are well-positioned to make sure the food supply is safe. There’s no doubt about that.”

Safety First

DAH manages many disease programs such as:

  • brucellosis herd certification for bovine, swine, farm-raised deer and goats
  • tuberculosis herd certification for bovine, farm-raised deer and goats
  • pseudorabies herd certification for swine
  • brucella ovis-free flock certification for sheep
  • chronic wasting disease herd status program for farm-raised deer
  • Johne’s disease certification for bovine and goats

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