The farmers I work with tend to be “hands-on” types and learn best by doing. There is a lot to be said for experiential learning–but there are some lessons we are better off learning without doing. When it comes to maintaining our health and safety and that of our livestock, it is better to learn from others’ mistakes and misfortunes rather than repeating them ourselves.
After every outbreak there are “lessons learned.” A few years back I asked an Extension colleague in Ireland what he felt were the most important lessons learned from the 2001 FMD outbreak. His slightly abridged recommendations follow.
From Eugene Hayes, Teagasc, Ireland
1. Livestock producers must know and understand the risks, threat, precautions, etc.
2. All livestock producers must be registered.
3. Ideally all cattle and their movements must be on a computer database—no exceptions!
4. Use movement permits for all cattle and sheep.
5. Select an area at random in the state and examine if it is possible to lock down that area as would happen in a real situation. Where would be the leakages from that area?
6. Have a list of available disinfectants that are effective against FMD. Ideally you should have a quantity in secure storage, for when the run starts.
7. Encourage livestock producers to be vigilant and report anything remotely like FMD.
8. Have a SWAT team available to deal with a potential outbreak.
9. Have a support system in place for producers (financial and emotional) in the event of an outbreak. Let them know this in advance.
10. Don’t try to hide an outbreak.
How well have we in the US been paying attention to these lessons? Let me know what you think.