Lack of vigil at check-posts and break in the cold chain of vaccine storage have contributed immensely to the high incidence of foot-and-mouth disease which has claimed the lives of hundreds of milch animals in the State.
About 2,000 head of cattle have already died of the disease, according to the State Animal Husbandry Department. More than 50 per cent of the dead animals were calves.
Though the government claims to have taken steps to contain the disease, farmers and officials of milk cooperatives remain a dissatisfied lot. The viral disease appears to have been contracted from infected bovines brought in from other States. “A ban has been imposed on the import of cattle from neighbouring States,” said V. Brahmanandan, Additional Director, Animal Husbandry Department.
About 8,000 head of cattle died of FMD in Karnataka last month, according to an official report made by the Karnataka government a week ago. Cattle in about 5,000 villages have been affected there. Tamil Nadu has also been facing cases of extensive infection among milch animals.
A senior official associated with the dairy sector told The Hindu that the system of inoculating cattle at the check-posts had failed. The cattle brought from neighbouring States require vaccination certificate from veterinary authorities. But the checking at the check-posts remains much to be desired. In most cases, only 50 per cent are inoculated, with certification being provided clandestinely to the rest without vaccination, he said.
The break in cold chain arrangements too has fanned FMD. The vaccine has to be kept at low temperatures; but the vaccine in possession of Animal Husbandry Department could be exposed to higher temperature due to failure of the refrigeration system arising out of power cuts for three hours or more. Such vaccines become ineffective, according to him.
There are also a lot of cases in which the farmer refuses to cooperate with the Animal husbandry officials on preventive vaccination because inoculated animal develops fever for a few days, resulting in a temporary fall in milk production. The farmer persuades the vet to issue vaccination certificate which is essential to claim medical reimbursement of up to Rs. 2000 per year for an animal, under a State government scheme.
“New strains of the viral disease have started appearing in cattle, making it difficult to tackle it,” said George Thomas, in-charge of Farm Support wing of Milma in the Malabar region. Vaccines have been developed for the existing strains of the virus. But Mr. Brahmanadan is optimistic containing the contagion. Booster dose is being administered and teams have been deputed across the State. All panchayats have veterinary doctors and vets have been appointed on contract basis wherever required. About 60 posts of veterinary doctors are vacant in the State, according to him.