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November 30, 2006   Email to Friend 

Darryal Ray
(334) 613-4187
November 30, 2006

MONTGOMERY, Ala. -- The Alabama Farmers Federation is urging Alabama livestock producers to take an online survey to help protect America's livestock industry from an accidental or terrorist-caused outbreak of foot-and-mouth disease (FMD).

Foot-and-mouth disease is a highly contagious disease that affects cloven-hoofed animals, including pigs, cattle, sheep and goats. The virus that causes the disease can spread rapidly over large distances, mainly from animal-to-animal contact or from contact with other contaminated sources.

Perry Mobley, director of the Federation's Beef, Dairy and Hay and Forage Divisions, said that while there has not be a case of FMD reported in the U.S. since 1929, more than six million animals were slaughtered during a 2001 epidemic in the United Kingdom, causing economic losses in excess of $15 billion.

"Such an outbreak would be worse here because our industry is much bigger, our speed of commerce is much faster, our transportation system is much more vast, and we move animals such great distances across this country," said Mobley. "We're more vulnerable, and the economic impact would be much greater."

Because of that vulnerability, Mobley, along with Guy Hall, director of the Federation's Pork Division, and Mitt Walker, director of the Meat Goat and Sheep Division, are urging the state's livestock producers to take the 20-minute survey conducted by Pelayo Alvarez of the University of California-Davis' Center for Animal Disease Modeling and Surveillance (CADMS).

"I think it's important for two reasons," said Mobley. "First, it will allow us to get our arms around how vast animal agriculture is in this country, the speed of commerce, how often and how rapidly animals move from Point A to Point B and on to Point C and Point D -- the inter-connectedness of animal agriculture. I think it gives our producers an opportunity to realize that, and actually see how far animals move. It also will help answer the questions at hand: 'Are we subject to bioterrorism in terms of Foot and Mouth Disease or any other foreign animal disease? How would it affect animal agriculture? And, what would be the ramifications of such an event?'"

Furthermore, Mobley said, the survey will help prove or disprove whether we need a mandatory animal identification system.

"Our research uses computer models to simulate how FMD might spread if an outbreak were to occur on American soil," Alvarez said in a news release. "Currently we can only estimate what would happen if FMD were introduced in California. However, our goal is to expand our model to encompass the entire United States. Understanding how FMD might spread among our country's diverse animal populations will allow us to target specific strategies for prevention and control of the disease epidemics. The key to success in predicting when and where FMD might appear, and in preventing and controlling spread, is to have complete and accurate information on contact between susceptible animals or herds."

Alvarez said all information received is "strictly confidential" and used for research and modeling purposes only.

Once producers complete the survey, they will have access to the survey's growing database that shows how our state's livestock industry compares with other states. Producers without Internet access who want to participate, can contact Mobley at (334) 613-4221.

To take the survey, visit http://www.cadms.ucdavis.edu/adm/

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