While officials of the Animal Husbandry Department claim that the disease is under control, dairy sector representatives maintain that the disease continues to pose a serious threat to the livelihood of farmers.

The foot-and-mouth disease, which has eroded the health and productivity of cattle, continues to raise alarm among the farming community in the district.

While officials of the Animal Husbandry Department claim that the disease is under control, dairy sector representatives maintain that the disease continues to pose a serious threat to the livelihood of farmers.

Around 170 milch animals died of the disease in Ernakulam district during the past four months, according to officials of the Animal Husbandry Department. Over 2,000 animals have been affected in the district, a senior official of the department said.

Free vaccination was being administered to the affected cattle. Compensation at the rate of Rs.20,000 per dead animal was being given. Five persons have been given the compensation so far and the records were being examined in the case of other applicants, he said. A total of Rs.10 lakh has been allotted to the district under the programme. The district has also received Rs.1 lakh for purchasing medicines. Distribution of fodder free of cost is also in progress. Milk production in the district has fallen by 30 per cent due to the disease, he said.

Balan Master, chairman of the Ernakulam region of Milma, said the dairy farmers remained apprehensive of their livelihood ever since the disease broke out. The compensation of Rs.20,000 is inadequate, he said. He demanded that the government extend subsidy to buy milch animals as good breeds of cattle cost more than Rs.20,000. The disease continues to spread in Palakkad and Thrissur, according to him.

Mr. Balan said though there is a ban on the transport of cattle from neighbouring States, it has not been effectively implemented. A herd of cattle which had infected ones among them, were sent back the other day at Palakkad.

He said the disease spreads through air as well as physical contact. Even the veterinary personnel who moved from one place to another as part of the treatment process could carry the virus, he said. Dairy farmers were apprehensive of meeting other farmers where the disease has spread.

Mr. Balan also sought urgent intervention by the veterinary varsity and other research institutions to conduct studies to evolve methods to curtail the disease. Concerns have been raised on the impact of the disease on the immunity of cattle which could make the animals vulnerable to infections from other diseases. The net impact of the disease could be grave as disillusioned farmers could abandon the sector altogether, he said.

Explaining a typical case, he said two out of 20 of a farmer’s herd of cows died and the rest have been affected. The farmer will have little option other than quitting the sector if things remain unmanageable. Scores of others too faced similar situations, according to him.

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