Beef industry works on plan to protect against Foot and Mouth Disease
The animal agricultural industry hopes to create a plan to protect against the potential threat of Foot and Mouth Disease (FMD). The U.S. hasn’t had a case of the highly contagious FMD virus affecting livestock since 1929.
The Secure Beef Supply Plan is one proposal for mitigating the potential effects of the disease.
“If FMD does occur, the state and federal officials that manage the incident (outbreak) will use the guidance in the FMD Response Plan. For farms and ranches in the FMD Control Area that are not infected, they would utilize the guidance in the Secure Beef Supply Plan,” said Danelle Bickett-Weddle, Center for Food Security and Public Health associate director.
“The Secure Beef Supply Plan provides producers with the information they need to help protect their cattle from becoming infected with foot and mouth disease (FMD) virus should it ever occur in the United States,” said Bickett-Weddle. “It also provides guidance for producers, transporters, packers, and animal health officials on how to move cattle to market in a manner that does not expose other animals to FMD along the way. FMD is not a food safety or public health concern. The goal behind Secure Beef is to allow for business to continue for farms/feedlots that are not infected by the disease but affected by movement restrictions.”
Funded by USDA Cattle Health Programs, the Secure Beef Supply Plan was developed with industry stakeholders at the table including producers, veterinarians, packers and transporters, as well as state and federal health officials and university partners from Iowa State University and Kansas State University.
“The plan will only be utilized in the event of an FMD outbreak,” said Bickett-Weddle. “We hope it is never in place. Developing a plan before an outbreak allows for discussion of some difficult topics with time to think about the outcomes of those decisions. In the last three years, the U.S. livestock industry has dealt with some diseases that caused significant losses in the swine and poultry industries — porcine epidemic diarrhea virus (PEDV) and high path avian influenza (HPAI). Those diseases were introduced from other countries that had it (PEDV) and wild birds (HPAI), respectively. FMD occurs in over 100 countries in the world. The risk exists for an accidental or intentional introduction.”
David Sjeklocha, DVM, Cattle Empire LLC Animal Health and Welfare operations manager, is a member of the Steering Committee helping to develop the Secure Beef Plan. Sjeklocha spends most of his days in the feedyards in Satanta, Kan. and as a result, he brings first-hand experience in the areas of animal health and welfare to discussions of this plan.
“The original ‘stamp-out’ plan for FMD included depopulation of livestock,” said Sjeklocha, and this is still an option, especially if the outbreak is small in size. “It has become very evident that depopulation may not be feasible, at least on the larger operations. We need to consider how we can manage an outbreak without stamping out and what that looks like.”
Sjeklocha said developing the Secure Beef Supply Plan has been a huge undertaking, and while many components are still in development, the USDA has a fully developed FMD Response Plan (the Red Book). This includes several critical activities and tools for the containment, control and eradication of FMD. The specifics can be found at http://www.aphis.usda.gov/animal_health/emergency_management/downloads.
Sjeklocha said the components of the Secure Beef Supply Plan can be placed into three broad categories, including:
1. Prevention and Biosecurity
“There are essentially two ways FMD would be introduced to a farm or ranch,” he said. “One would be accidental introduction and the other would be intentional introduction. Accidental introduction, in my opinion, would be the easiest to prevent, as there are some very basic things a beef cattle operation can do to prevent an accidental introduction. Intentional introduction, however, means that the goal of the introduction is to cause damage. If someone is bent on deliberately causing damage, it would be much more difficult to prevent than an accidental introduction.”
2. Management of an outbreak
“Management of an outbreak is an extension of biosecurity. It involves keeping the outbreak contained to prevent further spread. This would include strict areas of quarantine, where human traffic, vehicle traffic and even wildlife traffic are controlled. Also, depending on the scale of the outbreak, a decision would be made as to whether depopulation or vaccination is necessary,” Sjeklocha said.
3. Continuity of business
“Continuity of business is the plan to keep beef production functional and moving forward. We simply can’t keep cattle on feed for months and months and not get them harvested, and we can’t expect ranchers to keep their calf crop around for extended periods. The process of business must continue. This would also include a media and communication plan to spread the word that the meat from animals that have recovered from FMD is safe for human consumption, and that FMD is not considered a public health threat,” Sjeklocha said.
The plan has been under development since USDA offered the funding in October 2014. Because FMD impacts not only cattle, but also swine, sheep, goats, deer, elk, bison, antelope and feral swine, USDA is funding the development of Secure Food Supply Plans to help other livestock sectors maintain business continuity in case of an FMD outbreak.
“Producers wanting to protect their cattle from exposure would want to implement the biosecurity recommendations as soon as possible. Biosecurity can be expensive. It can be inconvenient for people. However, FMD could cost producers a lot of money in lost production if their cattle get infected; it is a pretty inconvenient disease for cattle as it causes lameness and mouth sores, making them not want to eat,” Bickett-Weddle said.
“We have to keep in mind that all protein and dairy products from cloven-hoofed animals will be impacted,” Sjeklocha said. “I have seen figures from as little as $15 billion and possibly as much as $100 billion if a nationwide outbreak were to occur. How much of that would be directly attributable to beef industry losses would be something that the economists would have to sort out. But I think that the figures associated with the 2003 cow with bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE or mad-cow disease) would provide a conservative model for what beef producers could expect.”
So what can producers do now to mitigate their risk?
Sjeklocha offered tips.
“Make sure you know who is visiting your operation,” he said. “This would include formal tours, family, and hunters, for example. Have your visitors been in a country that has FMD, and if so, did they visit a farm or anywhere that may have exposed them to FMD? Keep in mind, FMD is endemic in two-thirds of the world. Strictly limit all visitors’ direct contact with livestock and feed. Strictly limit outside vehicle traffic. Make sure all new employees’ references and backgrounds are checked. Make sure all purchased feed comes from a trusted resource.”
He added, “Keep new livestock segregated from existing livestock for a minimum of 30 days — this is a good biosecurity guideline whether the concern is FMD or any other infectious disease. It is a good idea to know what types and how many head of livestock your employees may own. In the case of an outbreak, people can carry FMD from one farm to another. Know the signs of FMD. The most common signs of foot and mouth disease is the formation of sores on the tongue, mouth, feet, and teats. Infected cattle are depressed, reluctant to move, not able to eat which can lead to a loss in weight. They also drool, and in many cases, make a loud smacking sound. The disease causes severe production losses and while the majority of affected animals recover, the disease often leaves them weakened and debilitated. Be aware. Watch for strangers being in places they shouldn’t be, such as in pastures, around feed sources, etc.”
To learn more about the Secure Beef Supply Plan, check out http://www.securebeef.org. Additional information can also be found on the Secure Milk Supply Plan at http://www.securemilksupply.org and Secure Pork Supply Plan at www. securepork.org. ❖
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