Is the U.S. Cattle Business at Risk for Foot-and-Mouth Disease

While robust procedures are in place to prevent foot-and-mouth disease from entering the U.S., one veterinarian, Andrew Clark, thinks it is just a matter of time.

He is speaking about foot-and-mouth disease (FMD) and whether or not the U.S. will experience an outbreak. Spending years as a veterinarian in southern Africa, he thinks it will happen. “If we look at what is a threat to us, at some point, we are going to have foot-and-mouth disease,” he told members of the International Livestock Identification Association (ILIA) during the group’s recent conference.

While foot-and-mouth disease is not a human health concern, the implications to the U.S. cattle business are legion. “A single case of foot-and-mouth disease stops all (livestock) movement for a minimum of 6 months until it is completely proven there is no more disease in the population. So think of the economic implications to our livestock industries,” Clarke stated. Not only will it stop all cattle movement within the U.S., but it will also stop all beef exports.

However, in southern Africa, where FMD is endemic, exports still happen. That is due to a combination of fences and vaccination. Should FMD strike here, we cannot build fences fast enough to contain animal movement, but we can vaccinate.

To learn more about the risk of foot-and-mouth disease in our cattle, click here.

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