African swine fever, foot-and-mouth disease, avian influenza and a host of other diseases are concerns for livestock producers around the globe.
At the “Presenting and Responding to a Major Disease Outbreak” workshop by the University of Missouri in Springfield, livestock producers and veterinarians learned about farm biosecurity and the current plans in place to defend against disease.
Larry Forgey, DVM, with the Missouri Department of Agriculture’s Animal Health Division, explained approximately 700,000 cattle and 6.6 million hogs moved out of Missouri on health certificates last year.
“Surveillance is going on every day in the state,” Forgey said, adding the goal is to prevent disease outbreaks which could financially devastate livestock producers. The MDA has programs for testing cattle for trichomoniasis and antemortem inspections at slaughter plants as well as a voluntary Johne’s disease program. Wild bird surveillance and feral swine disease monitoring are also ongoing.
“African swine fever right now is a huge concern,” Forgey said, adding the concern stems from the rampant outbreak in China.
Local veterinarians are likely to be the first ones to see problems and act as the “boots on the ground,” Forgey said. Producers, however, should also be on the lookout and call a veterinarian if they see anything suspicious.
“Be aware when things aren’t quite what they should be,” Forgey said. “Don’t just dismiss it.
“If we do have a disease that’s a foreign animal disease, there will be a quarantine… and control zones will be established,” he continued. The quarantine will happen immediately to stop the spread of the disease.
“We don’t want to leave these problems out there lingering any longer than we have to,” Forgey said, explaining a quick identification of the disease, testing of surrounding livestock facilities and flocks, and quarantine are intended to reduce the impact of an outbreak.
“As painful as it is, we all want to get through it as quickly as we can,” he added.
“Something from the outside got to the inside, and that’s what we want to prevent with biosecurity,” Forgey continued. Secure Supply Plans are available as public documents and can help producers to prepare biosecurity plans for their own farms. These plans have been developed to help business continuity and are voluntary tools to promote biosecurity.
Forgey recommended operations have a written plan that is updated and reviewed annually. He also suggested taking into consideration different threat levels and surrounding facilities such as nearby dairies, poultry houses and cattle operations.
Rose Massengill, animal disease traceability coordinator with the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, said APHIS “activities are not always obvious to the producer but are going on every day” to keep trade and commerce going and to protect the livestock industry.
Indemnity may be paid for disease outbreak situations. “There’s no guarantee that the money will be there,” Massengill said, adding producers should consider Whole Farm Revenue Insurance or the Livestock Indemnity Program as risk management tools.
“We do not pay for dead animals,” Massengill added. “We only pay for animals alive at the time of diagnosis.”
She also emphasized the importance of traceability and accurate records for proper biosecurity. If an outbreak occurs, producers will also need a premise identification number issued by the Missouri Department of Agriculture. Having this number prior to an outbreak can speed up the recovery process.
“We want you to get back to production as soon as possible,” she said.
When it comes to foot-and-mouth disease, Massengill explained the government is making an effort to prepare for an outbreak with its National Veterinary Stockpile. The funding for a vaccination bank was included in the most recent farm bill. However, vaccination is not a complete solution.
“Vaccination for FMD sounds like a silver bullet,” Massengill said. However, there are seven different strains so vaccinations can’t be done until the strain is identified. Producers also can’t routinely vaccinate for it because the U.S. would be designated an endemic country which impacts trade.
If a FMD outbreak occurs, “it’s going to affect the whole country,” Massengill said. “It’s going to be a very drawn out process... It’s not as easy as flipping a switch.”
Ray Massey, University of Missouri agricultural economist, explained how disease outbreaks impact markets.
Massey showed the costs of the 2014-2015 avian influenza outbreak where losses were approximately $3.3 billion. However, there were winners — those who cleaned up and rebuilt and those who had higher prices from supply shortages.
“Prices are responding to these things,” Massey said, explaining fear causes price drops, which results in decreased production and supply and the resulting increased prices.
“Economists would say there is a potential to benefit as long as you’re not the one who gets hit,” he added, explaining hog producers who were not hit in the 2013-2014 PEDv outbreak also saw a benefit. With a BSE outbreak, however, everyone is a loser.
“A disease outbreak is not your only hazard,” Massey said, adding producers need to prioritize hazards through a hazard assessment, considering management strategies and methods and cost estimates of disease outbreaks. The probability of an outbreak is subjective, but “the impact can be very objective,” Massey said.
The probability of an outbreak in the U.S. is higher than the probability of an on-farm outbreak, Massey said, explaining the outbreak may not be on the farm but the producer may see an impact. For example, cattle producers across the country saw the negative impact of a trade shutdown with the last BSE outbreak in the U.S.
“My encouragement to everybody is that they should develop a response plan,” he said, adding a plan gives everyone an idea of what needs to be done.
“A cash flow plan is really, really important,” he emphasized. Producers should take the plan to their lenders, as they will probably need an infusion of cash if an outbreak occurs.
Massey said he would not count on an indemnity in the plan. If the producer does receive one, it’s “gravy.”
“Pray that it occurs, but don’t depend on it,” he said.