No, sick cows are not affecting the milk production in Karnataka - here’s the real story

Guess what? 0.000007% of cows have been affected by the foot and mouth disease.
No, sick cows are not affecting the milk production in Karnataka - here’s the real story
No, sick cows are not affecting the milk production in Karnataka - here’s the real story
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Are you worried that your daily milk consumption will suffer due to the recent outbreak of foot and mouth disease that has hit cattle across Karnataka?

You can rest easy. The outbreak has not affected milk production in the state, say officials with the Karnataka Milk Federation.

Suresh Babu, director of Karnataka Milk Federation’s Animal Husbandry Department also refuted media reports and said that there has been no decrease in milk production due to the FMD outbreak. 

Milk production has been the highest in Bengaluru Urban district with around 14 lakh litres a day. “No dairy farms have been closed. Only 920 out of 132 lakh cattle in Karnataka have been infected and the infected cattle have been isolated and are being treated. As many as 850 of the infected cattle have already been treated. The hike in milk price has nothing to do with the epidemic as suggested by local media,” Suresh Babu said.

“There was a marginal decline in February in Hassan, Kolar, Ramanagaram, Chamarajanagar and Bengaluru rural areas. A few cases of FMD were reported in Mysuru, Chamarajanagar, Kolar and Chikkaballapur,” he said. 

Officials of the Department of Animal Husbandry and Veterinary Services are planning to barcode the vaccinated animals to keep track of the cattle that are being treated.

According to Dr Manjunath, Joint Director, the department has recorded 920 cases so far and 850 of them have been treated. The senior official, however, refuted media reports and said that no FMD-related deaths have been reported so far in the state.

“The barcoding system will help us keep a tab on the cattle that are vaccinated so that we can track their progress. Some papers are saying 10 deaths, some channels are saying hundreds across the state. When the cause of cattle death is deemed due to FMD, the post-mortem report is sent to our department. Only after we record the death will it become official. There have been no FMD related deaths this year,” Dr Manjunath argued.

“The disease is very easy to detect as ulcer formations can be seen in the mouth and feet of the cattle. The virus attacks when the immunity of the cattle is low. This, coupled with the ulcers in the mouth make it difficult for the cattle to eat. They become very weak within a couple of days. However, this disease does not affect humans,” Dr Reddy pointed out.

Vaccination drives

The senior official said that the cattle must be vaccinated once in six months until there is absolutely no trace of the virus in the cattle’s body.

“One major problem is that the people in villages feel that it is not necessary for their cattle to be vaccinated if they are not infected. What they do not understand is that the virus may be present in the cattle but since the immunity of the cattle is not low, the disease would not have set in. The local breed has higher immunity than the hybrid ones. That does not mean that they will not develop the infection, especially since it is summer and the is when the disease normally hits,” Dr Reddy said.

The cattle generally develop a fever for a couple of days due to the vaccination, which is normal, he says.

“This has made the villagers feel that the vaccination is harming their animals and they refuse to get their cattle vaccinated. Also, some of them believe that the quantity of milk production would drop if the cattle are vaccinated, which is absolutely untrue,” he added.

The department will deploy 8,000 veterinarians and teams of three will go to every cattle-owning household in every village in Karnataka from April 7 onwards for the 12th round of FMD cattle vaccination drive. “’Blood samples will be collected before and after the vaccination, to ensure vial quality and coverage,” Dr Reddy said.

According to the statistics provided by the department, Karnataka has over 132 lakh cattle out of which 65% of them are hybrid.

“The disease has become widespread as farmers are selling the local breeds as they fetch more money and they retain the hybrid cattle. Hybrid breeds are more prone to getting infected but the milk production is higher than local breeds,” Dr Manjunath said.

According to Dr Manjunath Reddy, FMD occurs during the summer months of February, March, April and May.

“The heat and lack of fodder and water for the cattle is also a contributor for their immune system to go down, which makes them prone to getting infected. The gaushalas (government-run cow sheds) have to keep the cattle in hygienic conditions and also provide adequate fodder and water. The gaushalas must also alert the cattle owners if the animals show symptoms of FMD so that they can be treated as soon as possible,” Dr Manjunath added.

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