Beef Issues Quarterly Archive

Foot and Mouth Disease and Development of the Secure Beef Supply Plan


by Reneé Dewell DVM, MS, Center for Food Security & Public Health, Iowa State University
As many of you know, foot and mouth disease (FMD) is a highly contagious viral disease that affects domestic cloven-hoofed animals (cattle, swine, sheep, and goats) and many wild animals (deer, elk, bison, pronghorn antelope, and feral swine). The U.S. has millions of animals that are at risk of infection with FMD, including approximately 94.5 million cattle, 67 million swine and 8.5 million sheep and goats.
Though not currently present in the U.S., there have been nine documented FMD outbreaks between 1870 and 1929. All previous FMD outbreaks in the U.S. were controlled by a combination of 1) stopping movement of all animals and animal products and 2) “stamping out” or depopulating all infected or susceptible animals.  Until recently, FMD vaccination was not part of response planning because it conflicted with recommendations by the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE), which provides guidelines that are applied globally and affect U.S. import/export of animal products. The OIE has since altered guidelines for how a country can achieve and maintain FMD-free status and will now consider vaccination as part of an approved response and management strategy under certain conditions.
During an FMD outbreak, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s emergency response goal is to effectively reduce disease spread while enabling animal agriculture to continue operating and producing safe and wholesome food for the nation - a term referred to as continuity of business (COB). To address this issue, the USDA is funding the development of Secure Food Supply (SFS) Plans for several livestock sectors in the event of an FMD outbreak. The SFS Plans are developed through collaboration of livestock producers, processors, allied industries, state and federal animal health officials, as well as academic partners. The SFS Plans are focused on the COB approach by seeking to control or eradicate disease without destroying the industry during the response.
Each SFS Plan is developed for the specific commodity it seeks to protect but there are some common components among the Plans. All Plans have voluntary pre-outbreak preparedness components to help producers prepare ahead of time for a potential outbreak. SFS Plans contain guidance for biosecurity measures that could be taken to prevent disease introduction and spread.  Each Plan contains information on disease surveillance and detection. For many of the SFS Plans, pre-outbreak risk assessments are also included. All SFS Plans are based on current disease response capabilities for the specific industry and will evolve with science, risk assessments, and new capabilities. Outreach and training pre and post outbreak are also part of the SFS Plans. It is important to note that, though each SFS Plan is developed with collaboration from all relevant sectors of the commodity group it serves, the SFS Plans are guidelines only. Final decisions would be made by animal health officials during an outbreak.
Recently, the USDA funded development of the Secure Beef Supply (SBS) Plan. One of the leading developers of the SBS Plan is the Center for Food Security and Public Health (CFSPH) at Iowa State University College of Veterinary Medicine. The SBS Plan joins a cadre of other commodity plans: Eggs, Milk, Pork, Turkeys, and Broiler Chickens. Lessons learned from these other commodities in their policy and planning processes are enhancing development of the SBS Plan for the beef industry.
This SBS Plan is intended to identify and address issues to better prepare government and the beef industry for an FMD outbreak in the United States. The overall goal of the Secure Beef Supply (SBS) Plan is to maintain COB for beef producers and processors in an FMD outbreak and to provide a continuous supply of beef products for consumers. The first phase of the SBS Plan is to develop processes that will focus on FMD preparedness, response, and recovery of the feedlot and beef processing industries, including transportation of cattle to processing plants. These processes must be feasible and agreed upon by beef producers, processors, transporters, federal and state agencies, and other segments of the animal industry. The procedures put in place must balance the need for COB with the goal of limiting disease spread. The SBS Steering Committee met in January 2015 to identify knowledge gaps, unique beef industry issues, and form working groups with the goal of developing a COB plan for the beef industry should an FMD outbreak occur. The steering committee has broad representation across the beef industry from feedlot owners, cow-calf ranchers, backgrounders/stocker producers, veterinarians, cattle feeding associations, renderers, packer/processors, transporters, livestock markets, government (State Animal Health Officials, USDA APHIS, FSIS), and academia.
Maintaining COB for the beef industry during an FMD outbreak is a complex and multifaceted problem; a diverse group is needed to develop realistic solutions that will be accepted by producers, processors, allied industries, and policy makers alike. Six SBS working groups (WG) have been created to address COB issues and include:
  • Biosecurity WG: Biosecurity for feedlots, transporters and packers in an FMD Control Area will be important to minimize introduction, spread, and exposure of susceptible animals.
  • Surveillance WG: Surveillance of cattle within an FMD Control Area during an outbreak will be necessary to promptly identify infected cattle and identify those without evidence of infection for possible movement to processing.
  • Communications WG: There are numerous audiences that need to have an understanding of FMD during an outbreak. National Cattlemen’s Beef Association, on behalf of the beef checkoff, has a leadership role within this WG given their representation on the Cross-Species FMD Communication Team that has been working on appropriate messaging for years.
  • Data Management WG: Training pre-event is part of preparedness. Data collection and sharing is part of an FMD response.
  • Managed Movement WG: Guidance has been drafted for Incident Command officials who will be responsible for making decisions regarding cattle and supply movements during an FMD outbreak.
  • Management of Infected Feedlots WG: In a large FMD outbreak, infected feedlots may not be depopulated. Management of an FMD infected feedlot will present several challenges.

Preparing ahead of time for the possibility of an FMD outbreak in the U.S. is important work. In another article of BIQ this month, we’ll give an update on the Cross Species FMD Communications Team and the overall communications activities. In future BIQ articles, we’ll continue to provide updates on tasks and activities associated with each SBS Working Group and ongoing FMD crisis preparedness and response efforts.
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Tags: Beef Issues Quarterly, Issues Updates, Summer 2016

June 24, 2016