ASI works to secure sheep and wool supply in case of FMD
The implications of a foot and mouth disease (FMD) outbreak on an unprepared sheep population would be disastrous. In preparation for this scenario, the American Sheep Industry Association (ASI) has completed the Secure Sheep and Wool Supply Plan to ensure business continuity.
ASI worked with the Center for Food Security and Public Health at the Iowa State University College of Veterinary Medicine to develop this plan.
“The sheep industry is a diverse industry producing quality meat and wool products under a variety of management and environmental conditions,” said ASI in a press release. “The Secure Sheep and Wool Supply Plan focuses on business continuity in the event of an FMD outbreak.”
The release continued, “FMD is the most highly contagious disease of livestock and affects domestic cloven-hoofed animals such as cattle, swine, sheep and goats, and many wild animals such as deer, bison, pronghorn antelope and feral swine. FMD is not a food safety or public health concern.”
ASI notes having the Secure Sheep and Wool Supply Plan in place prior to an FMD outbreak is critical for food security and animal health and well-being.
“The Secure Sheep and Wool Supply Plan will facilitate the safe movement of sheep and wool with no evidence of disease from farms in an FMD control area to harvest channels or to other farms,” ASI explains. “The Secure Sheep and Wool Supply Plan will enhance coordination and communication between all parties, speed up a successful FMD response and support continuity of operations for sheep producers and associated industries.”
“The industry is pleased to have completed this plan with the assistance of the Iowa State’s Center for Food Security and Public Health and the volunteers that served on the stakeholder group,” said ASI President Benny Cox of Texas. “ASI funded this project because it is important for our producers to have a plan to follow to ensure the economic viability of the American sheep and wool industry during an FMD outbreak.”
ASI notes the Secure Sheep and Wool Supply Plan is consistent with USDA’s FMD response goals and other Secure Food Supply Plans to maintain business continuity for sheep and wool producers whose animals are not infected with FMD and to provide a safe, continuous supply of lamb, mutton and wool for consumers.
Foot and mouth disease
According to the USDA Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS), FMD is a severe, highly contagious viral disease.
“The FMD virus causes illness in cows, pigs, sheep, goats, deer and other animals with divided hooves,” according to Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS). “It does not affect horses, dogs or cats and is not a public health or food safety threat.”
APHIS notes it is also not related to hand, foot and mouth disease, a common childhood illness caused by a different virus.
“FMD is a worldwide concern, as it can spread quickly and cause significant economic losses,” says APHIS. “While many countries across the globe are dealing with FMD in their livestock populations, the United States eradicated the disease in 1929.”
Animals with FMD typically have a fever and blisters on the tongue and lips, in and around the mouth, on the mammary glands and around the hooves.
“These blisters, called vesicles, pop and turn into red areas called erosions,” APHIS explains. “Pain and discomfort from the vesicles and erosions lead to other symptoms such as depression, anorexia, excessive salivation, lameness and reluctance to move or stand.”
APHIS continues, “Most affected animals will not die from FMD, but the disease leaves them weakened and unable to produce meat and milk the way they did before.”
“FMD causes production losses and hardships for farmers and ranchers,” APHIS stresses. “It also has serious impacts on livestock trade. A single detection of FMD will likely stop international trade completely for a period of time.”
APHIS notes there are seven known types and more than 60 subtypes of the FMD virus. Immunity to one type does not protect an animal against other types or subtypes.
Wyoming sheep producers and State Veterinarian Jim Logan have been involved with formulation of the plan since the beginning.
Logan notes planning began in early 2019 when ASI confirmed there needed to be a secure plan for the sheep industry in the case of a foreign animal disease such as FMD.
“FMD is highly contagious and affects cloven-hoofed species such as sheep, goats and cattle and can also affect wildlife,” says Logan. “If we ever end up with a disease like this in the U.S. there would have to be required movement stoppages.”
“Every state is vulnerable if an FMD event were to occur,” he says. “It could show up anywhere and spread across the country very quickly.”
According to Logan, sheep will not display symptoms at the same severity as other animals such as cattle and swine.
“Sheep could be affected and not show the traditional lameness and oral lesions presented by cattle and swine,” Logan explains.
Logan notes Wyoming producers can log into the Secure Sheep and Wool Supply Plan website at securesheepwool.org to view the plan and begin developing their own biosecurity plans.
“Other commodity groups such as beef, dairy, swine and poultry also have secure supply plans, and I would encourage these producers to be involved in developing their own plans based on their specific species guidelines,” Logan stresses.
“One of the main reasons these plans are vital is because they provide outreach and education about biosecurity and what they can do to protect their animals,” Logan explains. “If we get movement stoppages, producers would be required to have their own plan in place to get a movement permit.”
Wyoming Wool Growers Executive Director Amy Hendrickson notes producers should start their plan with identifying which parts of their operation are most vulnerable to disease introduction.
Hendrickson notes attention was paid to producers grazing on public lands.
“In some states that may not matter but here in Wyoming a lot of producers are using public lands and there needs to be a plan in place to get them off allotments in the case of a stop movement order,” Hendrickson says.
“This is a great tool for the sheep industry,” says Hendrickson. “The Secure Sheep and Wool Supply plan is intended to help keep our industry going in the event of an animal health emergency.”
“There are lots of things we’ve learned from COVID-19, but one of them is the importance of having a continuity of business plan in the event of an emergency. It is vital to the livestock industry,” she concludes.
Callie Hanson is the managing editor of the Wyoming Livestock Roundup. Send comments on this article to firstname.lastname@example.org.