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How Would Animal Agriculture Handle an Outbreak of Foot and Mouth Disease? Livestock Producers and Government Officials Ponder the How in a What If Exercise

Fri, 04 Aug 2017 06:13:25 CDT

How Would Animal Agriculture Handle an Outbreak of Foot and Mouth Disease?  Livestock Producers and Government Officials Ponder the How in a What If Exercise What would happen if foot-and-mouth disease (FMD) broke out near your farm? How fast would it spread? Would you be able to transport or sell hogs? The pork industry is working to answer these questions and more as part of its crisis preparedness. An example of that work was seen on Thursday as the Oklahoma Pork Council welcomed officials from the National Pork Board to Oklahoma City to run a TableTop FMD "what if" exercise. (Pictured here is Oklahoma State Vet Dr. Rod Hall talking with USDA Vet Dr. Becky Brewer about how to quickly respond to a positive test result for FMD in the "what if" exercise)

“The best time to think about a crisis is before one occurs,” said Cindy Cunningham, assistant vice president of communications for the Pork Checkoff. “By planning, you can position resources to ward off potential threats and be ready to respond rapidly.” Cunningham and Dr. Patrick Webb with the Pork Board led the discussion and the exercise with Oklahoma Pork Producers, Cattlemen, General Farm Group Representatives and local, state and federal government officials.

Roy Lee Lindsey, Executive Director for the Oklahoma Pork Councl, reminded the group as they started Thursday morning that Oklahoma is now the fifth largest sow state in the US- and those baby pigs produced are mostly shipped out of Oklahoma closer to where the corn is raised to feed them to finishing weights. Lindsey says the ability to move pigs daily out of Oklahoma to other states is essential to the well being of the pork industry in the state- and disruptions to that movement that would definitely occur with an outbreak of a foreign animal disease.

Cunningham told Radio Oklahoma Ag Network Farm Director Ron Hays that "we talk about Foot and Mouth disease as something that we have not had here in the US since 1929 - so it seems like "maybe we will never get it here" but the experts tells us that it's not if we will get it but WHEN." As a result, Cunningham says it's important to realize how to prepare for such an event, from exactly how respond quickly to isolate infected animals to then explain to consumers that it's a animal health issue and not a human health or food safety issue. (Click on the LISTEN BAR below to hear their full conversation)

Cunningham says that the biggest impact to the livestock industry will definitely be the immediate loss of our export markets-that could cost beef and pork industries billions of dollars. "In the pork industry where we export 26 to 28% of our product- that won't be going overseas- so we will need to make sure that our domestic customers understand that meat and milk is safe...losing that international market will have a dramatic impact on all of our species which rely on that international market."

The goal of the drill? Help participants understand their responsibilities and other people’s roles in the event of a crisis, from producers to officials with the state veterinarian’s office. Participants in the Oklahoma City event learned how the hog and cattle producers of Oklahoma would be quickly impacted in any area that had a positive test for Foot and Mouth disease- and that the impact would also be felt across the entire and state and across at least the region- and for at least a short time, the entire country.

One reality that surfaced as the "what if" discovery of FMD was made in a sow operation in north central Oklahoma is that the animals found with the disease had likely been contagious for as much as two weeks before the testing and discovery even ocurred, which means any animal movement ahead of that discovery would have resulted in the spread of the disease- perhaps to locations several states away.


Ron Hays talks with Cindy Cunningham of the National Pork Board about the day when FMD arrives
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