BOISE — A bill that would require all breeding bulls in Idaho to be tested annually for trichomoniasis was introduced in the Idaho Legislature Jan. 30.
Currently, Idaho law only requires bulls south of the Salmon River to be tested for trich, a venereal disease that causes infertility and abortions in cattle.
About 80 percent of Idaho’s beef cattle are located south of the Salmon River.
The Senate Agricultural Affairs Committee unanimously voted to print the legislation, which is a one-sentence change to Idaho code that requires all bulls in Idaho to be tested for the disease.
The bill, which was crafted by the Idaho Cattle Association, will be debated later during a public hearing.
The issue has created strong feelings among cattle producers on both sides of the river and the proposal to require statewide testing has been hotly debated by the industry for at least three years.
ICA members in November passed a resolution to pursue legislation that requires all bulls in Idaho to be tested for trich.
“We think it’s a serious enough disease and a large enough threat to the cattle industry that we want to make certain it’s (addressed properly),” said ICA Executive Vice President Wyatt Prescott.
Prescott said while some north Idaho producers still disagree with the proposal, the resolution was passed by an overwhelming majority.
“We have been torn on it for a while,” he said. “But at the end of the day, the industry voted to pursue this.”
The cost of testing for trich varies from $25 to $50 per bull.
Some cattle producers in north Idaho say there is no data to support that there is a problem in their region, but others say that could simply be due to a lack of testing in that area.
Idaho in 1989 became the first state to adopt a trich testing program and producers north of the Salmon were exempted five years later because it was felt there wasn’t a problem in that area.
According to state data, 13,000 bulls were tested statewide during the first year of the program and 400 tested positive for trich. Last year, 23,000 bulls were tested and 17 tested positive, nine of them from out of state.
Republican Sen. Bert Brackett, a rancher from Rogerson in southern Idaho, said there are still some cattle producers south of the Salmon River who aren’t happy with the mandatory testing and he wouldn’t be surprised if there is some opposition to the legislation.
“There will be some people in the industry who won’t be supportive of it, both in the north and south,” he said.
But Brackett said the industry’s understanding of the disease has evolved since north Idaho producers were exempted from mandatory testing and the threat it poses to cattle producers is better understood.
“It doesn’t do you any good if you test for trich but your neighbor doesn’t test for it and his bulls get over to your (herd),” he said.