If foot-and-mouth disease (FMD) ever reaches the shores of the United States, initial priorities will be to contain and eradicate the disease. At the same time though, the livestock industry will need to continue operating. The ability to market animals and animal products with minimal risk of spreading the virus to uninfected herds is critical to maintaining continuity of business.

The Secure Beef Supply (SBS) plan is the latest initiative within the overall Secure Food Supply program. The SBS plan is funded by USDA in cooperation with the Center for Food Security and Public Health (CFSPH) at Iowa State University, which collaborates with other universities, organizations and industry stakeholders.

Danelle Bickett-Weddle, DVM, MPH, PhD, DACVPM and the associate director at CFSPH, says the SBS plan is intended to identify and address issues to better prepare government and industry to enable business continuity for the beef industry, starting with feedlots, in the event of an FMD outbreak. Its overall goal is to maintain business continuity for beef producers and processors and provide a continuous supply of beef products for consumers in the event of such an outbreak.

Development of the SBS plan was delayed until after those for eggs, pork and dairy had been drafted, not because beef is a lower priority, but for practical reasons related to the nature of beef production. First, in the event of an outbreak, feedyards and cattle producers at other production stages could potentially “warehouse” cattle for some time. Doing so would result in some economic losses but not of the scope that dairies or egg operations would face if they had to discard days or weeks worth of their perishable products. Farrow-to-finish swine operations also face tight marketing windows for finished hogs as they need to make space for subsequent generations moving through the system.

Also, the beef industry is a complex system, with cattle typically changing hands and locations at several production stages. The plan’s coordinators believed they could benefit by drawing upon lessons learned in the development of the plans for other species.

The Secure Food Supply plans align with the USDA FMD Response plan but focus on the uninfected animals within a control area. The USDA FMD Response plan, which is available on the USDA website, targets control strategies for infected animals and outlines contingencies for using various combinations of quarantine, culling and vaccinations. The Secure Food Supply plans focus on maintaining movement of animals and animal products from farms/feedlots without evidence of FMD infection during an outbreak, to protect continuity of the business while minimizing the risk of spreading disease.

Plan components

Recognizing the plan will need to integrate a range of components and activities across the beef industry, the SBS steering committee held a meeting in January to identify gaps in current response plans, create working groups and map out a course of action. Those working groups and their coordinators include:

·         Biosecurity — Coordinated by Bickett-Weddle, this group is focused on biosecurity for feedlots, transporters and packers in an FMD control area.

·         Surveillance — Reneé Dewell, DVM, MS, at Iowa State, coordinates this group, which will develop tools and strategies for surveillance of cattle within an FMD control area to promptly identify infected cattle and identify those without evidence of infection for possible movement to processing.

·         Communications — Season Solorio, Daren Williams and Mandy Carr from NCBA coordinate this group which will develop communications strategies addressing multiple audiences. 

·         Data Management — Lowell Anderson, DVM, MS at Iowa State University, coordinates plans for pre-event training, data collection and sharing.

·         FMD Outbreak Tomorrow – Managed Movement — Mike Sanderson, DVM, MS, DACVPM, at Kansas State University, coordinates this group along with Christy Hanthorn, DVM, MS, also at Kansas State. The group is developing contingency plans to manage cattle movement in case an outbreak occurs before the SBS plan is fully developed.

·         Continuity of Business for Infected Feedlots — Jim Roth, DVM, MS, PhD, DACVM, director of the CFSPH at Iowa State, coordinates this group, addressing the challenges of managing feedlots that are infected but not depopulated during a large FMD outbreak.

Beginning with biosecurity

Bickett-Weddle says the biosecurity working group is reviewing and discussing the first draft of biosecurity performance standards (BPS) and best practices based on the line of separation concept, which is designed to decrease exposure of susceptible animals from off-site traffic. Resources from existing feedlot biosecurity plans as well as applicable material and recommendations from the existing Secure Milk Supply (SMS) and Secure Pork Supply (SPS) plans were incorporated.

The group also is looking closely at lessons learned during the 2013 outbreak of porcine epidemic diarrhea virus, (PEDv). That outbreak, she says, provided hints on what an outbreak of FMD might look like and revealed gaps in biosecurity that initially allowed the virus to spread across the country. By quickly identifying those gaps and adopting new protocols such as more intensive cleaning and sanitation of trucks and trailers, the pork industry was able to reduce the spread of PEDv significantly.

The plan will focus initially on feedyards, with BPS intended to allow trucks to move between feedyards and packing plants with minimal risk of spreading disease. Practicing veterinarians, she says, can play a role by helping their clients identify where their points of vulnerability could be and developing biosecurity standard operating procedures tailored to individual operations.


Dewell notes that biosecurity planning is key and so is consistency in monitoring health of cattle.  “Cattlemen and women also need to be aware of and recognize clinical signs potentially associated with FMD.  Many of the signs associated with FMD may also be signs of other diseases, and veterinarians can help their clients understand these signs. Early recognition of FMD signs and prompt reporting are critical to containing this highly contagious disease.”

Dewell explains that one goal of the SBS plan is minimizing interruptions in live-cattle movement from feedlots and other beef operations, with no evidence of FMD infection, in an FMD control area to packing plants. During an FMD outbreak, a control area would likely consist of an infected zone and a buffer zone and is at least 10 km (~6.21 miles) beyond the perimeter of the closest FMD-infected premises. This area may be redefined as the FMD outbreak continues or as the incident commander directs. In order to continue to move live cattle, beef cattle operations in an FMD control area will need to meet specific biosecurity performance standards designed to minimize the potential for FMD virus to be introduced to or spread from one beef operation to another.

In addition, feedlots and other beef operations in an FMD control area may need to implement a formalized process for daily herd inspection, or active observational surveillance (AOS), to document that there is no evidence of FMD virus infection in their herd or population. The goal of AOS is the earliest possible detection of FMD within an FMD control area to meet permit eligibility requirements. AOS does not replace the need for periodic inspection of the herd by animal-health officials. Rather, it supplements this process by requiring daily observation by trained cattle health monitors (CHM) on each feedlot to increase the likelihood of early FMD detection.

Toward those goals, the group has been soliciting feedback from stakeholders, including feedyard managers, veterinarians and pen riders, to identify which tools would best meet their needs for monitoring. Dewell says her group is developing a packet of training materials, in English and Spanish, geared for feedlot personnel. This will include visual aids for recognizing clinical signs of FMD at various stages of infection, instructions on how to conduct AOS and specific guidelines for whom to contact if unusual clinical signs are observed.

Training, including a packet of training materials, will be delivered by an individual under the authority of a state or federal animal health official and explained to the designated feedlot personnel.

The CHM will be responsible for communicating to all workers on the premises to be alert for the clinical signs associated with FMD and to report them immediately to the supervisor on duty. To allow timely animal movement with AOS, CHMs will need to be selected, trained (and the training documented) with state animal-health officials in advance of an outbreak of FMD.

Bickett-Weddle says the surveillance portion of the plan will draw heavily from resources previously developed for SMS and SPS plans, including the online training website that was recently developed for SPS.

Managed movement

The managed movement working group is working with state animal-health officials to compile and compare state regulations, draw on existing programs and develop a plan for managing cattle movement in case an outbreak occurs before the full SBS plan is in place.

Sanderson says the group is looking at “what to do the next day” to control the outbreak while minimizing economic damage to the beef industry. Much of the planning centers on risk assessment, he says, and developing standards for determining which cattle movements need to stop and which can continue.

In the event of an outbreak, livestock movement from inside to outside of defined control zones would be highly restricted. Ideally though, uninfected feedyards within a control area would be able to move cattle to a packing plant within that area.

Sanderson notes that our lack of a comprehensive traceback system in the United States creates a significant weakness in our ability to rapidly trace exposed cattle to effectively quarantine appropriate areas while continuing to allow movement in others. He says feedyards typically can trace cattle back to an auction market or the previous owner, but tracing further back becomes considerably less reliable and more time consuming.

Veterinarians, he says, can help by encouraging their clients to maintain good records showing the origins of received cattle and destinations of those shipped out. The quality of those records could help determine whether an operation is allowed to ship cattle during an outbreak.

Business continuity

The continuity of business for infected feedlots working group is generating a list of issues that must be addressed in a large outbreak when depopulation is not an option. Biosecurity, surveillance, caring for infected cattle, marketing recovered cattle and the use of vaccination are just some of the challenges being discussed. Likewise, communications will be critical to reassure the public that FMD is not a public-health or food-safety threat.

Sanderson agrees that communications will need to integrate with all other aspects of the plan. It is critical, he says, for packing plants to remain open during an outbreak to maintain continuity of business, and the SBS plan will need to navigate a tangled web of state regulations, contractual obligations between plants and feedyards and consumer demand. Consumers will need to remain willing to purchase beef, driving demand from retailers and foodservice companies, which creates incentive for plants to continue slaughtering cattle.

Overall, he adds, the plan must balance robust disease control and the need to keep the beef production and marketing chain in operation.

Information on the Secure Food Supply plans and the USDA FMD Response plan are available on the CFSPH website at cfsph.iastate.edu/Secure-Food-Supply and USDA websites, respectively.



Progress in securing the milk supply

Work on the Secure Milk Supply (SMS) plan began in 2009, with USDA funding to participating universities, and since then the team has worked to develop strategies for safe, timely and risk-based movement of dairy animals and products while controlling and containing FMD outbreaks. Overall goals of the national program are to:

·         Maintain business continuity for dairy producers and processors during an FMD outbreak.

·         Minimize spread of the disease.

·         Ensure a continuous supply of milk and milk products to consumers.

Key components include biosecurity, cleaning and disinfection, movement plans and risk assessments.

For a more detailed article about the SMS plan, see the July-August 2014 issue of Bovine Veterinarian. A digital edition of the magazine is available at BovineVetOnline.com. Find more information on all the Secure Food Supply plans at cfsph.iastate.edu/Secure-Food-Supply.

See this article and others on feeding waste milk to dairy calves, the Veterinary Feed Directive rule and the veterinarian’s role in protecting consumer confidence in the July-August digital edition of Bovine Veterinarian.