Thailand seeks FMD-free status in 3-5 years

(The Philippine Star) - May 31, 2013 - 12:00am

NAKOMRATCHASIMA, Thailand – The Thai government is seen to complete within the next three to five years a foot-and-mouth- disease-free (FMD-free) livestock zone that isolates farms unscathed by the disease, according to Thai government veterinarians.

The FMD-free zone is seen to be established in eastern Thailand.

The Thai government is currently conducting legislative zoning of the provinces that would included in the control areas. The movement of animals within the zone would be restricted to prevent contamination.

A registry of animals within the FMD free zone would also be created.

The Thai government is also improving its mass vaccination program to support both small and large-scale farmers.

This development could benefit the developing dairy industry in the Philippines because this would enable Filipino dairy farmers to purchase  semen from Thailand for their breeding programs.

The continued prevalence of FMD in some Thai livestock farms is preventing the Philippines from importing heifers and semen from the country, which would be cheaper than sourcing heifers from New Zealand and semen from the United States.

Thailand is currently in stage three out of the five stages of controlling FMD. This means that the country is strengthening its veterinary tools to respond to the disease.

“There is still no definite time frame for reaching stage five, but we are trying our best to reach the higher level. After this, an expert from the OIE will conduct an assessment on the vaccines,” Ratchanee Atthi, expert on bacterial Vaccine development of the Bureau of Veterinary Biologics told visiting Philippine dairy officials and dairy farmers.

“The FMD-zone is not yet final but perhaps in three to five years it will be established,” she added.

The Thai government charges farmers a small price for the vaccines but provide free veterinary services.

Atti said the government veterinary service currently provides the vaccine needs of 80 percent of the Thai livestock industry.

There are also private biological technology companies that sell vaccines to farmers.

Thailand currently has around 500,000 dairy animals against the 40,000 in the Philippines. 

The Philippine government is importing this year around 800 milking cattle from New Zealand for its breeding program. These are Holstein Friesian cows cross-bred with Sahiwal cattle which can more enduring a tropical climate.

Each cattle would cost around P140,000 against the cost of 65,000 baht for Thai Friesian cows which are Holstein Friesian cows cross-bred with native Thai cattle.

These cattle are lent to farmers for breeding and are eventually returned to the government either pregnant or with an offspring.

National Dairy Authority (NDA) administrator Grace Cenas said it would be easier to conduct business with Thailand once the country is already FMD-free.

“So you should hurry because we are interested in doing business with you,” Cenas said in jest during the forum with Thai veterinary officials.

Filipino businessmen who are part of the delegation also recognize that the establishment of the FMD-free zone would also give the Philippines access to cheaper source of semen for breeding.

Holstein Friesian semen imported from the US costs around P500 to P1,000 per straw, but the average price in Thailand is  300 baht per straw.

“We can wait for this. We want to get the genetics and we cannot get this because they are still not FMD free,” said Juan Lozada, chairman of the Philippine Dairy Confederation.

The Thai veterinary service currently produces cattle vaccines for foot and mouth disease, Hemmorhagic septicaemia, Anthrax spore, Brucellosis, and Backleg diseases.

It also produces vaccines for swine and poultry diseases.

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