Secure Milk Supply: Ohio’s Role

Dr. Eric Gordon, Clinical Associate Professor, Department of Veterinary Preventive Medicine, The Ohio State University

Foot and mouth disease (FMD) is a highly contagious foreign animal disease that infects cattle and other cloven-hooved livestock, such as swine, sheep, goats, and deer. FMD is not a public health or food safety concern. Clinically, the virus results in blisters on the animals feet, mouth, and on teats. Other signs include drooling, lameness, fever, nasal discharge, and going off feed. FMD virus is the most contagious animal virus and is shed in saliva, breath, milk, semen, urine, and manure. It can be spread quickly between animals or indirectly on workers clothing, footwear, farm vehicles, and equipment.

Currently, FMD virus is found in more than 2/3 of the world, most notably in parts of South America, Asia, Africa, and the Middle East. The United States has been free of FMD for nearly 100 years. The last outbreak in the U.S. was in 1929. Currently, there is also no FMD in Canada, Mexico, and Central America.

Many experts believe another outbreak of FMD in the United States is inevitable.  Given that the modern U.S. dairy industry is more “national” than in 1929, an outbreak today would spread much faster and prove to be very costly.   This could be potentially devastating to the dairy industry and to U.S. agriculture.

Should one or more cases of FMD, hereinafter to be referenced as hoof and mouth (HMD) Disease so as not to confuse the disease with human hand, foot, and mouth virus, are identified in the U.S., responsible regulatory officials (local, state, tribal, and federal officials, as appropriate) have the authority and responsibility to establish control areas around HMD infected premises and to manage animal and animal product (e.g., milk) movement within, into, and out of the control area. In other words, should a dairy farm premises become infected with HMD, a control area of about 25 square miles, or more, would be set up around the farm. Other dairy farms within that control area that are not infected would have restrictions placed on the movement of milk, animals, and vehicles on and off the farm. 

The Secure Milk Supply (SMS) Plan provides a workable business continuity plan for dairy farms that are under movement restrictions but not infected with HMD. The plan offers movement guidance for producers, haulers, processing plants, and officials managing the outbreak. It helps dairy farms in the control area, whose cattle have no signs of HMD, to continue to move milk, thereby limiting the milk disposal problems and lost income for dairy farms, haulers, processors, and grocers.  Additionally, this plan works to maintain the supply of milk and milk products to consumers.

Furthermore, the plan provides biosecurity and surveillance tools for producers. The biosecurity performance standards outlined in the SMS Plan are good for all dairy farms to consider before a serious health event occurs. Those biosecurity principals can help protect your dairy from other contagious diseases that can be harmful to your animals, such as Bovine Viral Diarrhea, Infectious Bovine Rhinotracheitis, Johnes, Anaplasmosis, and more.

In late 2016, Ohio officially joined the Mid-Atlantic regional group of states to participate in the M-A-SMS Plan. The M-A SMS Plan provides additional guidance, beyond that described in the national SMS Plan, to the Mid-Atlantic States’ dairy industry to be eligible to request raw milk movement permits from dairy farms to processing with no evidence of HMD infection in a control area. Due to the extensive movement of raw milk to processing between states in the Mid-Atlantic region, regional cooperation enhances the effectiveness of these efforts to support the continuity of business of the dairy industry.

Components of the M-A SMS Plan for permitting raw milk movement from Grade “A” farms in a control area to processing include measures to be put in place before (pre-event) an HMD outbreak and post-event. These measures are designed to prevent the introduction of the disease and to prevent moving the disease from one farm to another via milk trucks/tankers and haulers/drivers. The measures apply to dairy operation premises, the milk truck/tanker, the milk truck hauler/driver, milk processing plants, and milk receiving stations.

You can protect your dairy from diseases that would adversely affect your animals and your bottom line. You can also help ensure that you will be able to continue to move your milk during a substantial foreign animal disease outbreak by participating in the SMS Plan. If you would like more information about the SMS Plan, how to protect your business during a disease crisis, or just want to have better biosecurity on your dairy, contract one of Ohio’s SMS Plan consultants: Dr. Bill Yost  ( or Dr. Eric Gordon (