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HELENA - The owners of a brucellosis-infected cow north of Yellowstone National Park were talking with federal officials Tuesday about slaughtering the rest of their cattle, which number fewer than 50.

Christian Mackay, executive officer of the Montana Board of Livestock, said those talks were the first steps toward potentially eradicating the herd.

The infected cow, the second outbreak of the disease in Montana in less than two years, means the state will formally lose its brucellosis-free status in coming weeks.

State officials had not released the name of the ranch or the owners of the infected cow as of noon Tuesday.

Brucellosis is a serious disease of cattle, elk, bison and swine that can cause cows to abort their first calves. In rare cases, it can spread to people.

Federal policy has long pushed to eradicate the disease from all U.S. livestock. That goal was briefly realized in February, when for the first time in 74 years, federal officials declared all American livestock brucellosis-free.

The disease persists in the bison and elk of Yellowstone National Park, where the wild animals can spread it to cattle on nearby ranches.

Montana recorded its first case of the disease in 22 years last May, when cattle in a ranch near Bridger tested positive. That stock was later traced to a ranch near Emigrant, also near Yellowstone Park.

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