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Dairy Today Expo Extra

RSS By: Catherine Merlo, Dairy Today

Dairy Today's Catherine Merlo brings you the latest from the World Dairy Expo.

Is your dairy ready for a crisis?

Oct 01, 2008

by Catherine Merlo

Surely the three California dairies that tested positive for Bovine tuberculosis this year weren’t expecting the disease to hit their operations.
 
Surely the Washington dairy that found a cow with BSE (“mad cow disease”) on its premises in 2003 wasn’t expecting that blow.
 
And surely foot and mouth disease will never hit your dairy.
 
Never say never.
 
Safeguarding your dairy for an animal health emergency is critical, two experts told a surprisingly small audience today at World Dairy Expo in Madison, Wis.
 
“But if I told you producers all understand and are taking action on it, I’d be lying,” said Matt Mathison, vice president of technical services for the Wisconsin Milk Marketing Board.
 
But the consequences of ignoring the threat would be monumental.
 
“Every day approximately 500 million pounds of raw milk moves across the country,” Dr. Darlene Konkle said. She’s a veterinarian with the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture-Trade and Consumer Protection’s (DATCP) Division of Animal Health.
 
“An outbreak of a foreign animal disease would stop the intrastate and interstate movement of animal products and result in major economic impacts across the country,” Konkle told the audience of about 20 people. “International trade would be halted.”
A peaceful dairy today could be the scene of an animal disease outbreak tomorrow.
 
Responding to and containing an outbreak requires a great deal of coordination between government agencies and private industry, she said. Advanced planning and resource coordination can help mitigate and improve the response to a crisis. But dairy producers and processors must participate in the planning process with government agencies to ensure an effective response.
 
And both “must also take an active role in these preparedness efforts by implementing food defense programs on their farm or in their plants,” Konkle added.
 
USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Services (APHIS) as well as state agencies have their protocol in case of an outbreak: recognizing there’s a problem, diagnosis, movement holds, disease response. But a dairy caught unprepared only worsens a crisis situation.
 
“Having business continuity plans in place at the farm, plant and across the state’s industry will play a vital role in getting the milk flowing again as soon as possible,” Konkle said.
 
Both Konkle and Mathison urged dairy producers to implement on-farm food defense programs. These span your operations, environment, product and animal health. They involve your cows, employees, visitors and more.
 
Their message: Develop a response plan. Understand the steps that state and federal agencies will take in an animal health emergency. Get involved in your local preparedness planning and exercises.
 
“If you don’t, there’s no way you can be prepared,” Mathison said.
 
Today’s message to safeguard the industry – and your dairy – seems to be falling on many deaf ears. On a day when 10,000 people were expected to attend Expo, only 20 took the time to learn more about agro-security.
 
But as those beleaguered producers in California and Washington might tell you, don’t wait until the thief is inside your door to secure your house. Start today.
 
More on how to set up and implement agro-security programs can be found at a number of Web sites:
www.dairywellbeing.org       
 
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