International Foot and Mouth Disease outbreaks calls for biosecurity review

Outbreaks of FMD across the globe prompt Michigan officials to suggest review of farm biosecurity plans to reduce risk to the livestock industry.

Because of recent outbreaks of Foot and Mouth Disease (FMD) in North and South Korea, Mongolia, Japan and elsewhere, the Michigan Department of Agriculture & Rural Development (MDARD) released a letter to livestock owners suggesting they review or update biosecurity plans in hopes of reducing the risk of spreading the disease in the United State. This letter to livestock owners can be found here.

As Mr. Disney’s song tells us, “It’s a small world.” Even though these countries are literally on the other side of the Earth, our globalized economy and international transportation networks move them to a place just a few hours away from Michigan livestock farms. While the risk of importing FMD into the United States is not great, the potential impact of this disease on U.S. agriculture outweighs the risk of not implementing biosecurity plans on dairy and livestock farms. Developing a farm-gate biosecurity plan, including a visitor’s policy, for your farm is crucial.

Foot and Mouth Disease is a vesicular disease, which can infect most cloven hoof livestock. The signs of FMD include a drop in feed intake (and a drop in milk production in dairy cows), high fever, lameness and vesicles or blisters in the mouth or at the top of the hoof wall. It is a “reportable disease” which means it must be reported to the state veterinarian’s office. If you suspect that your animals are exhibiting signs of blisters or vesicular lesions contact your local veterinarian immediately. All vesicular lesions seen in livestock should be reported to the Michigan Department of Agriculture & Rural Development – Animal Industry Division at (517) 373-1077. (After hours and weekends call (517) 373-0440)

Animal health risk reduction on the farm starts with a biosecurity plan that incorporates a visitor’s policy. Because infectious diseases, like FMD, can be transported by humans traveling between farms, screening visitors who pose an increased risk should be part of a biosecurity plan. In this case it might be friends, relatives or a local consultant who has been traveling overseas. Consideration of risk begins with the question, where they have been in the past seven days and what risk could that pose to my operation? Or the risk factor might be a feed delivery or cattle truck that has been on other farms. What risk might that present as a transport vector for livestock disease? By setting up a policy that minimizes the threat of infection for diseases like FMD, a better biosecurity defense against more common animal health issues like Salmonella or Johne’s disease is also built.

A list of countries that have been declared FMD free can be found at the website of The World Organization for Animal Health.