New England’s dairy milk supply is a vast network of production, processing and delivery of raw milk and products that crosses several state borders. Vermont is New England’s dairy powerhouse, producing 2.5 billion pounds of milk for the regional milkshed in 2022, from farms large and small, conventional, and certified organic.
An emergency animal disease introduction to this milkshed could be devastating for livestock, farmers, and the regional economy. Preparing stakeholders to respond appropriately to such diseases has been a major focus for the University of Vermont’s Dr. Julie Smith, an animal science researcher and veterinarian.
During the summer of 2023, Smith will embark on the Vermont Dairy Mapping Project. The project will help farmers use a planning tool to prepare response plans for a foreign animal disease introduction, such as foot-and-mouth disease (FMD). Some foreign animal diseases are highly infectious and can cause mass casualties in livestock and poultry. These diseases are not normally found in the United States and U.S. territories, but have the potential to cause significant animal health and economic impacts. FMD is the most contagious foreign animal disease of cloven-hooved animals such as cows, goats and sheep.
Smith and veterinary student interns will work with 40 Vermont dairy farms to introduce preparedness resources, including a newly developed biosecurity mapping tool, the Secure Ag Farm Mapping App.
“The process of creating the map helps farmers visualize where and how to put the brakes on disease spread,” stated Smith. “Farmers without such a plan may not be able to move milk if their farm ends up in a disease control area.”
A map detailing the emergency biosecurity plan of a farm is an important part of meeting state and federal enhanced biosecurity requirements, if a foreign animal disease is discovered in the United States. Biosecurity is a set of methods and practices that prevent or greatly reduce the introduction of diseases or pests to farm animals. These practices can also contain the spread of diseases between farm animals.
The mapping app was developed by students working with UVM’s Social Ecological Gaming and Simulation Laboratory (SEGS Lab), with oversight by Managing Director Dr. Scott Merrill. The app assists with the creation of enhanced biosecurity maps based on an aerial view of the farm. It is flexible enough to be used for mapping hazards or other features of the farm too.
The Vermont Dairy Mapping project adds to Smith’s portfolio to secure the New England milk supply. The goal of these projects is to enhance preparedness of the region for a high consequence disease like FMD that could send milk prices plummeting, interrupt animal and product movements, and require quarantine and depopulation of affected livestock.
For more information on how to participate in the project, contact Dr. Smith at email@example.com.
Funding is provided through:
- The George H. Walker Milk Research Fund.
- Farm Bill funding through the USDA APHIS Veterinary Services (VS) National Animal Disease Preparedness and Response Program (NADPRP) under cooperative agreement AP21VSSP0000C008.
- An Agriculture and Food Research Initiative Competitive Grant 2022-69014-37041 from the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture.