Ted Turner’s 4,600 head of Bison on his Flying D Ranch has a Brucellosis problem, according to the Montana State Veterinarian.

The bacteria disease has been absent from domestic herds in Montana for the past two years, but has been confirmed in a 7-year old Bison cow and is suspected in two other animals in the Turner herd.

Brucellosis occurs in Bison, cattle, and elk.  It can cause pregnant animals to abort their fetuses.

The infected cow was killed and the two other animals quarantined from the rest of the herd pending test results, according to Marty Zaluski, the state vet.  The other two Bison will be put down if the test results come back positive.

It is not likely that the menu at Ted’s Montana Grill, a 55-restaurant chain covering 19 states with a Bison options, will be impacted by the problem with one herd in Big Sky Country.

Turner has 15 ranches with Bison herds that reportedly add up to about 50,000 head. Bison headed for slaughter from the Flying D will be tested for the bacteria disease before they enter the food chain.

Russ Miller, general manager for Turner Enterprises Inc., suspects elk on the Flying D were the source of the Brucellosis in the Bison.  He said contact with infected wildlife is a persistent problem for ranchers.

A cattle herd in Park County, MT experienced a bout of Brucellosis in 2009.  That caused some surrounding states to restrict importing cattle from Montana until the state regained its Brucellosis-free status in 2009.

The outbreak in the Turner Bison herd will raise the question of whether restrictions will be put on Bison and cattle movements from Montana.  USDA has been moving toward imposing restrictions on smaller areas than states.  Idaho did not lose its Brucellosis-free status after a similar small outbreak earlier this year.

Turner and George McKerrow Jr. opened the Ted’s Montana Grill restaurant chain in 2002.   A September opening in Boulder, CO was the 55th location in 19 states.

UPDATE:  While this instance of Brucellosis does not poise a human health danger, Brucellosis is a threat to humans as comments below indicate.  Eating unpasteurized milk and soft cheese made from raw goat milk from infected animals and occupational exposures of those who work with animals are two ways humans contract it. 

  • janice

    What’s the source of the assertion that Brucellosis poses no human health danger? I’d rather be bathed daily in a vat of Salmonella.

  • Doc Mudd

    Brucellosis is, indeed, an issue for human health.
    In humans it is referred to as “Bangs Disease” or Undulent Fever. Damned miserable infection to weather – among other symptoms, it makes your ‘nads swell up and hurt like hell. Was quite common early in the Twentieth Century and serious enough to prompt an effective control & eradication program through most of that under-appreciated century here in the US.
    Now we dream of letting ‘nature’ take its course, I suppose, and permit the re-introduction and spread of Brucella. History repeats itself, but we’re much too smart these days to be listening. Live and learn.

  • L.E. Peterson

    I’m with Janice–since when is Brucellosis not a human health danger? I know a few people who have contracted brucellosis through handing of infected beef. It’s definitely not a fun disease to have and it lingers in your system for a long time.

  • Jody L

    According to the U.S. CDC, humans can become sick from brucellosis infection. Here is a link to a short and clear CDC fact sheet about brucellosis in humans:

  • James

    Learn to read and understand:
    “While THIS Instance of…..etc

  • L.E.Peterson

    The update was posted AFTER Janice made her comment. The original article stated that brucellosis was not a threat to human health. The author has corrected this information in response to our comments.

  • I’m down here in Texas, and I raise a few buffalo. One thing I can tell you is that either the test for brucellosis was the inefficient “card” test, and that if a tissue test is done, it will show negative.
    Either that, or the infected animals are in fact “beefalo” not pure buffalo.
    Pure buffalo are immune to brucellosis.

  • Gagandeep Bangar

    brucellosis in human being is curable but dangerous. present throughout the world. the few countries have eradicated this still chances of re-emergence are there. almost all mammal species are affected from this even water mammal also being infected.
    in human being it is considered to be dangreous because it affects sexual organs. affected people may lead to sterlity. course of treatment is very long, almost 45 days with antibiotics.
    its not easy to diagnose from symptoms. main symptoms are fever,joint pain,fatigue,eyewall pain etc.
    some serological techniques are used to diagnose but conventional serological techniques which are very popular may give false positive or false negative results. i am working on molecular techniques in human brucellosis.
    for further information you can contact me gagan86bangar@gmail.com