If foot and mouth disease (FMD) were to break out in the United States, the disruption to our cattle industry would be significant, especially if the disease is not quickly identified and confined to a small area. Plans are underway, however, to minimize that disruption. During the recent Academy of Veterinary Consultants conference, James Roth, DVM, PhD, DACVM, director of Iowa State University’s Center for Food Security and Public Health (CFSPH), updated veterinarians on the Secure Beef Supply Plan, a USDA-funded initiative involving experts from Iowa State and several other universities.

Roth notes that “stamping out,” a strategy for quickly culling and disposing of infected and potentially exposed animals, could be effective in the case of a small, confined outbreak. If however, FMD were to spread to multiple areas, including large feedyards, the stamping out strategy would become logistically and economically impractical. In that case, some combination of stamping out, biosecurity, vaccination and slaughter of exposed animals would come into play. The Secure Beef Supply (SBS) Plan intends to help maintain business continuity for beef producers and processors in event of such an outbreak.

The first response to an outbreak would be for the government to impose a quarantine zone around affected areas and stop movement of all livestock. Eventually though, the industry would need to begin moving animals to slaughter to protect business continuity while also minimizing risk of further spreading the disease. Prior to the SBS Plan, researchers developed similar plans for eggs, milk, pork and poultry, since production facilities for those products have less ability to “store” their commodities when compared to beef operations. The SBS team is drawing on work done on the earlier livestock plans. The current SBS Plan focuses on feedyards, but the team plans to eventually incorporate other beef-production sectors.

Animal health officials domestically and internationally have recognized that vaccination should play a role in controlling a moderate to severe outbreak. However, Roth stresses that current vaccine supplies and production capabilities are inadequate to address more than a small, localized outbreak.

In January 2014, the CFSPH issued a draft white paper titled “FMD Vaccine Surge Capacity for Emergency Use in the United States,” with Dr. Roth the lead author. The authors estimate the cost of funding adequate surge capacity at $150 million per year for five years — a relatively small price to protect a livestock industry that generates $100 billion per year in cash receipts. At this point however, such funding is not available.

Recognizing the plan will need to integrate a range of components and activities across the beef industry, the SBS steering committee held a meeting in January to identify gaps in current response plans, create working groups and map out a course of action. Those working groups and their coordinators include:

·         Biosecurity — Coordinated by Bickett-Weddle, this group is focused on biosecurity for feedlots, transporters and packers in an FMD control area.

·         Surveillance — Reneé Dewell, DVM, MS, at Iowa State, coordinates this group, which will develop tools and strategies for surveillance of cattle within an FMD control area to promptly identify infected cattle and identify those without evidence of infection for possible movement to processing.

·         Communications — Season Solorio, Daren Williams and Mandy Carr from NCBA coordinate this group which will develop communications strategies addressing multiple audiences. 

·         Data Management — Lowell Anderson, DVM, MS at Iowa State University, coordinates plans for pre-event training, data collection and sharing.

·         FMD Outbreak Tomorrow – Managed Movement — Mike Sanderson, DVM, MS, DACVPM, at Kansas State University, coordinates this group along with Christy Hanthorn, DVM, MS, also at Kansas State. The group is developing contingency plans to manage cattle movement in case an outbreak occurs before the SBS plan is fully developed.

·         Continuity of Business for Infected Feedlots — Jim Roth, DVM, MS, PhD, DACVM, director of the CFSPH at Iowa State, coordinates this group, addressing the challenges of managing feedlots that are infected but not depopulated during a large FMD outbreak.

Learn more about the Secure Food Supply Plans, FMD and related topics from the CFSHP website