Working to secure the milk supply

Ohio Farm Bureau is part of an effort examining ways to secure the state’s milk supply in the event of an outbreak of the highly contagious foot-and-mouth disease.

Under the national Secure Milk Supply Plan, if foot-and-mouth disease is diagnosed in the United States, an animal health emergency would be declared, resulting in the quarantine and restricted movement of animals and animal products. Because the dairy industry has a “just-in-time” milk supply practice, this would result in a significant interruption of milk.

Several states and regions have adopted the national Safe Milk Supply Plan and are developing a common set of biosecurity procedures. The goals of the voluntary plan are to maintain business continuity for dairy producers, haulers and processors during a foot-and-mouth outbreak, minimize disease spread and ensure a continuous supply of milk and milk products.

Last year, Ohio joined the Mid-Atlantic States effort, which consists of 12 states. Ohio is in the beginning stages of crafting a state-specific science and risk-based plan. An advisory committee was recently formed to gather input from the dairy industry as well as state and federal animal health officials. Information gathered will include infrastructure, training needs and the industry’s ability to meet the biosecurity requirements. OFBF Director of Livestock Policy Roger High is on the committee, which includes Dr. Tony Forshey, state veterinarian; Scott Higgins, president and CEO of the American Dairy Association Mideast; Dr. Susan Skorupski of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, Veterinary Services; and Dr. Eric Gordon, Ohio State University veterinarian.

The committee also is working on ways to educate dairy producers, haulers and processors about the Secure Milk Supply Plan and what the signs of food-and-mouth disease are.

“We want to educate people that Ohio has a Secure Milk Supply program and what steps would need to be taken (if there was an outbreak). We’re also looking at how to do better from an industry standpoint with biosecurity. There’s always room for improvement,” Gordon said.

Foot-and-mouth disease affects cloven-hoofed animals such as cattle, pigs and sheep and does not pose any risk to humans. It is highly infectious and it can take up to four days before an infected animal shows any signs. The United States hasn’t had an outbreak since 1929, but the disease has occurred more recently in other countries. An outbreak in Great Britain in 2001 resulted in 6 million sheep, cattle and pigs being culled to contain the disease.