In one of the biggest cattle deaths due to foot and mouth disease in the State, the outbreak in southern districts has claimed 730 head of cattle so far this month.

Negligence on the part of farmers to get the cattle vaccinated and also delay in starting the seasonal vaccination is said to have contributed to the outbreak even as the officials suspect that a new strain of the virus may have emerged.

Though sporadic cases had been reported in the last fortnight, a majority of them have died in less than one week, causing panic among farmers in Mandya (230), Kolar (222), Ramanagaram (129), Chickballapur (63) and Mysore (42) districts where the majority of deaths have been reported, according to an Animal Husbandry Department official.

Chamarajanagar (12), Bangalore Urban (11), Bangalore Rural (3), Tumkur (16) and Dharwad (3) districts have also reported cattle death due to the air-borne viral disease. However, sources in the Karnataka Milk Federation (KMF) put the cattle toll between 800 and 900.

On Monday, the herbivores safari at Bannerghatta Biological Park was closed after three spotted deer and a neelgai died of the foot and mouth disease, suspected to have been transmitted by the cattle.

The outbreak of the disease has come in flush season when the KMF is expected to reach a daily procurement of 60 lakh kg. Currently, it is procuring 56.2 lakh kg of milk daily, the highest ever since the federation started in the mid-70s.

“The foot and mouth disease is reported almost every year and it is contained quickly. But this time, it happened suddenly. This is the biggest reported deaths so far. The high yielding cross breeds are most susceptible,” an official associated with KMF for three decades revealed.

A senior Animal Husbandry Department official said the vaccination drive against the foot and mouth disease is conducted in February/ March and August/ September every year.

“However, this time the vaccination drive started late due to heavy rainfall, and it is continuing. Besides, many farmers do not get their cattle vaccinated in the belief that the milk yields reduce for a few days after vaccination. The outbreak could be due to a combination of these reasons,” the official explained.

New strain?

The death of cattle affected by foot and mouth disease has also been precipitated by hemorrhagic septicema (HS), another KMF official said, adding that the post-mortem had revealed HS as the reason for death.

“We are also suspecting a virus mutation for the deaths as cattle is vaccinated twice a year. Samples have been sent to the Institute of Animal Health and Veterinary Biologicals to ascertain the reason for deaths,” Bangalore Dairy Managing Director Gurulingaiah, said.

Meanwhile, confirming that it is the highest number of deaths owing to foot and mouth disease in the State, the Secretary, Animal Husbandry K.H. Ashwathnarayan Gowda, said that intensive vaccination had been taken up and there was sufficient vaccine stock (supplied by Union government) in the State.

“The outbreak is expected to be contained in one week,” he added.

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