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Mid-Atlantic Secure Milk Supply Project offers plan
By JANE W. GRAHAM
WYTHEVILLE, Va. (Jan. 19, 2016) — The Mid-Atlantic Secure Milk Supply Project is a plan for the Mid-Atlantic dairy industry that has been in works for several years.
It could help save the industry but everyone hopes will never have to be used.
Members of the team that helped develop the plan explained the concept to a group of southwest Virginia Extension agents Jan. 7.
These agents will begin introducing it to their dairy farmers in February.
The project has been developed by veterinarians from the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services and their counterparts in four other states, in conjunction with industry members, to deal with an outbreak of a disease that has not occurred in the United States since 1929 should it ever occur.
The disease is known both as Foot and Mouth Disease or Hoof and Mouth Disease.
The plan is referring to it as Hoof and Mouth Disease because it occurs in animals with cloven hoofs.
The virus does not make people sick. However, it could have a devastating economic effect to the dairy industry, officials reported.
VDACS calculations that a two day production loss in the five states could cause the following economic losses:
• About $2,600 per farm lost in milk sales;
• About $5 million in lost farm milk sales across the region; and
• About $25 million in cumulative lost plant sales.
Because of this the plan can close down the agriculture industry and movement of products completely until diagnosed and contained, officials said.
“The most important aspect is for continuity of business,” Dr. Charles C. Broaddus, program manager of the Office of Veterinary Services with VDACS, said. “It allows dairy farmers to ship milk and receive payment in event of a HMD outbreak.”
“Movement control orders will be imposed on animal and animal product movements at the discretion of federal and state animal officials” should an outbreak occur, Jerry Swisher, a consultant to VDACS and former dairy farmer and Extension agent, told the group.
The officials stressed “that the movement restrictions could mean that no milk would be picked up until movement restrictions are lifted.”
Restrictions can be placed on farms surrounding those where the virus is found until all the problems are diagnosed and solutions put in place.
Swisher and Dr. Tom Levelle, regional manager of the Office of Veterinary Services here, met with the agents here and were joined by a group of planners led by Broaddus at Virginia Tech Jan. 11.
This group toured the VT Dairy Science Center with two goals in mind.
Developing the kind of plan every dairy farm in the region will be encouraged to have in place to handle a major health emergency, HND being at the top of the list is one.
The second was to find ways to use the new center as a teaching location to bring dairy farmers and milk haulers together to learn what they need to do to help themselves in this program. Broaddus stressed participation is voluntary.
“The Mid-Atlantic Secure Milk Supply Project is an on-going initiative working to develop a set of biosecurity procedures for farms, haulers and processing plants that will allow dairy farmers to get permits to move milk without undermining efforts to control and eradicate the disease,” VDACS advises in a handout that outlines 10 reasons for participating in the program.
Andy Overbay, Extension agent, dairy science, in Smyth County, Va., after hearing the presentation, likened the development of M-ASMS to forming a volunteer fire department.
He said it is something you hope you never have to use but it’s too late if the need arises.
Before the meeting was over Overbay and his colleague Phil Blevins, Extension agent in Washington County, Va. had set the wheels in motion for an on-farm meeting in late February for the people they serve.
The plan will help individual farms develop ways to handle the disease should it occur.
It means essentially locking down the farm, preventing any access to infected areas by people who have not been cleared, establishing “dirty” and “clean” zones, having facilities in place to decontaminate people and trucks and ways to leave the farm after they are clean.
“Dirty” zones are where the virus may be present and “clean” zones are beyond the decontamination point.
This is the simple version of explaining it.
Various educational efforts across the state will be held to help farmers understand the program and help will be available to individual farms.
Virginia is joined by Maryland, North Carolina, South Carolina and Tennessee in the plan in developing this plan.
The group said the participating states have grown to 11, including Delaware.
Levelle discussed the symptoms of HMD which are similar to other cattle diseases.
Slobbering, loss of appetite, fever, blisters in their mouths and lesions between hoof and hair.
Morbidity or sickness is high and can involve 100 percent of a herd.
He noted that adult animals that get sick usually recover but young animals are more likely to die.
Detection is made more difficult because the animals may carry the virus for several days before exhibiting symptoms.
The vets reported it is highly contagious and easily carried from animal to animal and place to place.
Boots, clothing and vehicles can become carriers.
Asked about the risks of HMD occurring in the United States Broaddus said no one knows what it is.
“On one hand, we have not seen HMD in the US since 1929,” he said. “If it was going to occur here naturally, odds are we would have seen it by now. But on the other hand, the disease is known to exist in many other countries, and with global travel being more common than ever, it is more likely now that it could be brought via a traveler from another country.
“Given that long time since we have seen it in the U.S., I think that the most likely source for it entering the U.S. may be via intentional introduction, aka agro terrorism.”