AS the poultry and egg industry learned this year after the emergence of highly pathogenic avian influenza, infectious and contagious diseases in livestock production can be devastating — especially economically — to those directly and indirectly involved in agriculture.
One of the most economically important diseases is foot and mouth disease (FMD), a severe, highly contagious viral disease that can cause illness in animals with divided hooves, such as cows, pigs, sheep, goats and deer, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Animal & Plant Health Inspection Service. Although it is not a human health or food safety threat, an FMD outbreak could cause significant economic losses from depopulation of infected or potentially infected livestock as well as lead to trade restrictions.
While FMD is found in some parts of the world, North America, Central America, Australia, New Zealand, Chile and many European countries do not have the disease, according to USDA, but the potential for the disease to emerge exists globally. Simulation models can help prepare for potential outbreaks, such as the one used in recent research led by Dustin Pendell, a Kansas State University agricultural economist who specializes in animal health economics.
Pendell used output from FMD spread models to examine the economic impact of an outbreak under 15 different emergency vaccination strategies in the midwestern U.S. The models included economic linkages from different species of livestock and crop production all the way to the final consumer, including international trade partners.
The research found that if an FMD outbreak were to occur in the Midwest and no emergency vaccination program was implemented, estimated losses to producers and consumers could reach approximately $188 billion, with another $11 billion in government losses due to controlling livestock movement and depopulating infected livestock.
However, if an aggressive emergency vaccination program was implemented, such as a 50 km (31-mile) vaccination zone where livestock were vaccinated at a rate of 50 herds per day at day 22 and 80 herds per day at day 40 from the onset of an outbreak, the economic losses would be reduced significantly: $56 billion for producers and consumers and $1.1 billion in government costs.
Results of the research are included in a report available online titled "Economic Impact of Alternative FMD Emergency Vaccination Strategies in the Midwestern United States." The research was part of a larger project that examined the continuity of feedlots in the Midwest if there was an outbreak of FMD and also involved Kansas State agricultural economist Ted Schroeder, veterinarian and epidemiologist Mike Sanderson and a former graduate student.
Model specifics. Pendell said while previous research has been done on the topic of FMD emergency vaccinations, the new study examined a smaller region of three, eight or, at the most, 15 counties. Additionally, it included a wider breadth of geographic location by including eight states across the Midwest.
The epidemiological models the researchers used are designed to simulate and forecast a disease spread, Pendell added.
"We take that information, such as how many animals are depopulated (or) how many animals are vaccinated, and then Dr. Schroeder and I incorporate that into an economic modeling framework to find various economic losses," he said.
FMD vaccines are controversial for many reasons, which raised another need for the study, according to the research report. The controversies include, but are not limited to, the ability to distinguish between vaccinated and infected animals, delays in regaining lost export markets, costs of the vaccinations, uncertainty in the value of an emergency vaccination program and the availability of a vaccine for a certain strain of FMD.
Many economic questions also surround how to determine the best emergency vaccination protocol for FMD, the report says. These questions include whether or not to allow vaccinated animals to live versus depopulating all susceptible animals within a certain radius, regardless of if they received a vaccine; how to find available personnel to administer emergency vaccines within a specified radius; how to identify infected herds prior to vaccine administration, and what vaccination zone is ideal for controlling FMD.
The study isolated two main drivers of economic impact related to emergency vaccination: vaccination zone and vaccination trigger. The zone refers to the area around an infected herd in which all animals will be need to be vaccinated. The trigger is how many herds become infected before a particular strategy is implemented.
The study examined vaccination zones of different sizes, including a 10 km range versus a 50 km range. This affected the number of animals that were depopulated, according to the research report. By increasing the size to 50 km, average losses to producers and consumers due to an FMD outbreak were reduced by 48%.
The study also found that there was an additional 10% savings when the vaccination capacity was increased at days 22 and 40 following an FMD outbreak.
Because of the estimated economic losses found in the research, Pendell suggested adopting an emergency vaccination approach to protect and prepare the industry and markets for a potential FMD outbreak.
"We hope this information and any other research that we do in the animal health arena is going to help in case something happens in the future," Pendell said. "This is intended for policy-makers, animal health officials and producers to use in making better policy decisions on vaccinating and, in this particular case, emergency vaccination for foot and mouth disease."
The "Beef. It's What's For Dinner." website recently launched a new landing page focused on family meals and how to incorporate more vegetables into children's favorite beef dishes.
Checkoff-funded market research was the catalyst for establishing the new website after six in 10 parents said they wished they could use more vegetables in their family meals and eight in 10 parents said they liked the idea of including more vegetables in their family meals.
With that information, the checkoff created a new recipe collection highlighting vegetable-packed beef recipes and curated existing checkoff resources to educate parents about beef's nutritional benefits to kids and its role in a balanced diet.
The checkoff also announced that it is preparing to launch its annual "Eat Better. Eat Veal." retail promotion in mid-January. On-pack labels featuring veal recipes like Thai yellow curry and Asian express lettuce wraps, plus a social media app, will drive shoppers to the VealMadeEasy.com website to enter a sweepstakes for $500 in free groceries.