Texas A&M AgriLife Course Tackles Foot-And-Mouth, Animal Disease Risk To North America

Texas A&M AgriLife Course Tackles Foot-And-Mouth, Animal Disease Risk To North America
Cattle in field
Animals at the O. D. Butler, Jr. Animal Science Complex (Laura McKenzie/Texas A&M AgriLife Marketing and Communications)

The second foot-and-mouth disease training event for North America in 2021 rounds out a comprehensive suite of animal disease mitigation efforts across Texas A&M AgriLife Research and the Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Sciences.

The event takes place online Nov. 1-10 and is limited to 30 participants.

Foot-and-mouth disease has been eradicated from the U.S., Canada and Mexico since 1929, 1952 and 1954, respectively. However, the global threat remains high due to endemic occurrences in many countries across Asia, the Middle East and much of Africa. It also persists in parts of Europe and South America.

“The need for this training is at an all-time high for U.S. and North American veterinarians working with livestock,” said Elizabeth Parker, DVM, AgriLife Research associate director for operations and strategic initiatives.

The course is part of a Texas A&M AgriLife collaboration with the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations’ European Commission for the Control of Foot-and-Mouth Disease, EuFMD. International expert trainers will teach through presentations, small breakout group exercises and full group discussions. They will share real-world experiences in global foot-and-mouth disease control and provide practical information to course participants.  

“The EuFMD team has managed the difficult challenge of transitioning a hands-on, real-time training course to a virtual version, seamlessly continuing the process of building capacity to recognize and respond to foot-and-mouth disease,” said Keith Sumption, FAO chief veterinary officer. “I am pleased to see this excellent partnership progressing over the years, to include industry and university personnel in addition to government and private practitioners.”

Continuing threats and solutions from the foot-and-mouth disease course

Parker cited the rapid spread of African swine fever across Asia and a recent incursion in the Dominican Republic as calls for vigilance and increased preparedness for foreign animal diseases.

“If the U.S. experiences an outbreak of foot-and-mouth disease, early detection will be key, and our private sector veterinarians will most likely be the boots on the ground to help regulatory animal health officials implement the daily response,” she said.

The virtual course will cover diagnosis and investigation of outbreaks. It will teach participants how to safely examine livestock without spreading disease among farms; how to age lesions and take foot-and-mouth disease diagnostic samples; how to understand requirements of U.S. regulations; how to set up biosecurity points around suspect farms; and how to use vaccines to prevent disease spread and impact.

Registration for the course is available at https://tx.ag/fmd2021.

Key infectious animal disease solutions in industry collaboration

U.S. Department of Agriculture research suggests an outbreak in the U.S. could result in losses of $15 billion to $100 billion, depending on the duration of the outbreak, the extent of resulting trade restrictions and consumer reactions.

“The return of foot-and-mouth disease to the U.S. is one of the biggest threats to our industry,” said Colin Woodall, chief executive officer for the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association. “It is important that courses like this are used to help educate, train and prepare large animal vets and industry experts to help us respond quickly and decisively. Preparation and prevention are key, and this course will help with both.”

Participants in the November course will learn to assess a farm’s risk of foot-and-mouth disease and develop enhanced biosecurity plans for minimizing the risk. Two videos of U.S. farms representing the beef and dairy industries will guide live discussions with animal health officials and foot-and-mouth disease experts — providing participants with practical experience vital to an operation’s business continuity during a foreign animal disease event. The videos were developed in collaboration with the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association and the checkoff-funded Beef Quality Assurance program.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, USDA-APHIS, will also take part during the training to discuss the specifics of a U.S. response in the event of an outbreak.

“This training is an essential opportunity for private practitioners, as they play a critical role in animal health and the initial identification of possible foreign animal diseases, such as foot-and-mouth disease,” said Rosemary Sifford, Chief Veterinarian of the United States. “Veterinarians will gain experience in the clinical recognition of foot-and-mouth disease in ruminants, conducting foot-and-mouth disease investigations, and determining appropriate surveillance actions following suspicion or confirmation of outbreaks.”

Comprehensive efforts in animal disease mitigation for North America

While the EuFMD has offered training courses for other countries over the last decade, the Texas A&M AgriLife course is designed specifically for North America. It also is one in a comprehensive series of initiatives across Texas A&M AgriLife to address animal diseases and other cross-border threats across the globe.

Cross-border initiatives across Texas A&M AgriLife

Developing producer resources for foreign animal disease response

The Beef Quality Assurance program has developed other producer education resources in conjunction with the Secure Beef Supply plan, such as interactive biosecurity plans and online learning modules that train cattle producers and veterinarians on developing a biosecurity plan.

Texas A&M AgriLife Research collaborations with National Cattlemen’s Beef Association and Beef Quality Assurance program on the videos, as well as the partnership with EuFMD on the virtual foot-and-mouth disease course, aim to provide tools for producers and veterinarians to develop biosecurity plans, support implementation of USDA’s Secure Food Supply Plans and assist preparations for a successful foreign animal disease response.

Gabe Saldana is a Texas A&M AgriLife Marketing and Communications strategist focusing on initiatives of Texas A&M AgriLife Research, which includes 13 research and extension centers across Texas. Saldana was a news reporter and editor of the Mid-Valley Town Crier in Weslaco, TX, covering the Rio Grande Valley of Deep South Texas before joining Texas A&M AgriLife in 2014.