By Sara Brown
Your production records are the first clue—to profits and disaster. They may just be your only line of defense in the event of a disease outbreak in your herd, and in preventing it from ever happening.
Thursday night I attended the Audrain County, Mo., Animal Agriculture Emergency Planning and Response Meeting, provided by the Missouri Department of Agriculture and SES, Inc. Looking around the room, I saw veterinarians, sale barn operators, cattle producers, swine producers, goat producers and sheep producers. If a large-scale terrorist act occurred in my immediate area, these are the people that would be affected.
Missouri ag sales total $3 billion each year. That is nothing to sneeze to at, but as Bryan Demeike from SES, Inc., broke down, Missouri sees nearly 20,600 semi-loads of cattle end in the state each year. Add 18,380 semi-loads of hogs, 50,000 loads of broilers and 25,500 loads of turkeys traveling Missouri roads—and then add one infectious diseased animal—that is potential disaster.
If a report of an outbreak of any kind happens, expect a stop movement order to come from USDA within minutes. What do you think will happen to that semi-load of steers? They can’t sit on the truck—they have to go somewhere until the disease is contained and Audrain County is working on where.
In 2001, it took the United Kingdom three days to issue a stop-movement order for foot-and-mouth disease. In 2007, it took three hours. You may think the government takes its time on some issues, but public health won’t be one of them.
Where do production records come in? At the beginning. It is the producer’s responsibility to call their vet if they have animals exhibiting any of these risk factors: sudden or unexplained deaths of a large number of animals in a herd; blisters or vesicular/ulcerated lesions on skin or mucous membranes; bloody diarrhea, severe and persistent, in large numbers in a herd; central nervous system conditions such as staggering, head tremors, falling, circling, paralysis or inability to stand; severe respiratory disease with fever that suddenly affects large numbers of animals; high fevers (greater than 104.5 degrees F) with swollen lymph nodes; abortion of unknown case in many animals; sick or dead animals that may have been exposed to a toxic agent (insecticides, chemicals, etc.).
Production records will show a history of death losses per cow, specific animals that are not performing, animal history and source, vaccination information and more—all the factors that contribute to herd health.
If an emergency is declared and you are forced to depopulate your herd, production records are the only way to ensure your indemnification payments will be made. (Those records will also include feed, machinery and labor costs.)
Know where your animals come from (I’m not endorsing COOL, but it may be a helpful tool), and know where your animals are going. The ability to trace back to the source of an infection is key for containment. Quarantine new animals to protect animals already on your farm. You don’t want to bring any threat into your livestock. Minimize contact with other livestock and keep boots and clothes disinfected.
It’s a coincidence that this meeting came in the midst of working on the Early Spring issue of Beef Today. The coming issue is packed full of ways to prevent disease outbreaks on your farm, current disease risk factors and how to establish a biosecurity plan on your farm.
If you have not already attended a similar meeting in your county or area, make a point to do so. Knowing who to contact (No.1—your veterinarian) is vital to containing a disease outbreak.
Here are some more links to visit: