Vets, State Prepare For Catastrophic Livestock Disease


Veterinarians from across the state are preparing for the catastrophic spread of livestock disease that could cripple Nebraska’s number one industry.

The state veterinarian says his office is dealing with some kind of disease issue weekly, if not daily.

So far the state has avoided an all-out livestock disease outbreak, but one group is preparing for one.

At the 13th Annual Livestock Emergency Disease Response System Conference, veterinarians are getting used to checking in and out the same way emergency responders do after a tornado.

"The incident management structure is the same," said Chuck Chase, NEMA exercise training officer.

Chase said Nebraska has plenty of livestock to carry disease.

"An outbreak could spread very rapidly."

Members of the Livestock Emergency Disease Response System or LEDRS have been meeting in Nebraska for thirteen years, but it's only been in the last few that producers in the state's dairy and pork industries have adopted secure supply plans.

The idea is to get procedure in place now so food can make it to your table, even with an outbreak in the area.

"These are radical new plans that have been put in place just the last few years. Prior to these changes in thinking, all we could do before was quarantine the premises, and for the most part, those products could not be used or put into consumption or production,” said Nebraska State Veterinarian Dennis Hughes. “It would force these businesses out of business, unfortunately."

But, one of the state's largest agriculture industries doesn't have a secure supply plan.

"[The] beef industry has not yet come to the table with anything, but I anticipate that it won't be very long before they do have some kind of plan in place," said Hughes.

He said these kinds of plans are especially important in the Husker State.

"Because agriculture, particularly livestock production, is so huge in our state, we need to do everything we can to prevent a disease like that from doing just economic devastation," said Hughes.

The group of 180 members is discussing the latest diseases of concern this week in Grand Island.

They're also talking about how wildlife could impact livestock and even how disease can spread in Nebraska’s zoos.

Hughes said they welcome more veterinarians and extension educators to join.

They’ll be able to respond in the case of a real livestock disease emergency. For more information, click on the links below:

Secure Pork Supply

Secure Milk Supply