ABSTRACT: Cattle in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem occasionally contract bovine brucellosis from free-ranging elk and bison. Cattle producers use a variety of brucellosis prevention activities to reduce their herds' risk of contracting brucellosis, such as: (1) having state agency personnel haze elk off private land, (2) fencing haystacks, (3) administering adult booster vaccination, (4) spaying heifers, (5) altering the winter-feeding schedule of cattle, (6) hiring riders to prevent cattle-elk commingling, and (7) delaying grazing on high-risk allotments. Their brucellosis prevention decisions are complicated, however, by several sources of uncertainty, including the following: a cattle herd's baseline risk of contracting brucellosis, the inherent randomness of brucellosis outbreaks, the cost of implementing prevention activities, and the activities' effectiveness. This study eliminates one source of uncertainty by estimating the cost of implementing brucellosis prevention activities on a representative cow/calf-long yearling operation in the southern GYE. It then reports the minimum level of effectiveness each prevention activity must achieve to justify investment by a risk-neutral producer. Individual producers face different levels of baseline risk, however, and the US government's brucellosis-response policy is constantly evolving. We therefore estimate breakeven levels of effectiveness for a range of baseline risks and government policies. Producers, animal health experts, and policymakers can use this study's results to determine which brucellosis prevention activities are unlikely to generate sufficient expected benefits to cover their cost of implementation. Results also demonstrate the influence of government policy on producers' incentives to prevent brucellosis. Policies that increase the magnitude of economic loss a producer incurs when their herd contracts brucellosis subsequently decrease prevention activities' breakeven levels of effectiveness, and increase producers' incentives to implement those activities. Producers' incentives to implement prevention activities also increase as activities' costs decrease. Policymakers can easily adapt the results of this analysis to help target cost-share agreements to producers and prevention activities most likely to generate positive expected net benefits. Epidemiologists can also use our results to help prioritize future research on the technical effectiveness of various brucellosis prevention activities.
Preventive Veterinary Medicine 07/2012; · 2.05 Impact Factor