Wasting Disease Worries Deer Farmers

According to recent reports by the Center for Disease Control and the Missouri Department of Conservation, chronic wasting disease, a contagious disease affecting deer and potentially transmissible to humans, is spreading among deer in Missouri deer farms.

Chronic wasting disease is a transmissible spongiform encephalopathy (a progressive condition effecting the brain and nervous system caused by infectious agents known as prions) which affects deer, elk, and moose. CWD causes progressive weight loss in infected deer, eventually leading to death. Typically affecting adult deer, the disease is always fatal and highly contagious, with something as simple as nose rubbing spreading the disease.

Deer farming is legal in Missouri and managed by the state’s agriculture department. Deer herds are managed and protected in fenced in regions, promoting tourism, controlled hunting, and livestock production.

After two reported cases of CDW were discovered in 2010, the Missouri DoC tested over 1,000 deer, taking samples from herds across the state, discovering several bucks infected with CWD. The MDoC is preparing to implement a 2002 plan that would attempt to limit the spread of CWD through herd management and herd reduction.

The CWD discovery is having repercussions in neighboring Tennessee, where lawmakers are attempting to pass legislation that would legalize deer farms. The legislation in consideration would have few regulations and could, some agricultural officials fear, lead to widespread outbreaks of CWD.

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Written by: Justin Ellison / Farm Plus Staff Writer