The return of foot-and-mouth disease (FMD) probably remains one of the livestock industry's biggest fears. And while lessons have been learned since the 2001 outbreak concerning control and the introduction of on-farm biosecurity, the threat of another foot-and-mouth outbreak is ever-present.
Although the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs in the United Kingdom (UK) says it doesn't want to appear alarmist in any comments it makes about the level of risk posed by a new outbreak of foot-and-mouth, the disease is tickling the borders of the European Union (EU) in Turkey and was present in Bulgaria in 2011.
These countries may be considered far enough away to pose little threat to the UK, but complacency will be a high price to pay if a diligent approach to biosecurity isn't a new year priority for all UK livestock farmers.
The current situation in Europe shows that the 27 EU member states are free of FMD and have been for two years since the last outbreak in Bulgaria in January 2011. But around the margins of the EU there is foot-and-mouth disease - something Alick Simmons, the UK's deputy chief veterinary officer, acknowledges does present some degree of a threat.
"Foot-and-mouth disease is well established in Turkey and there are a number of different serotypes circulating within its domestic livestock. There's an active programme of control and there's EU money financing it.
"In North Africa - Libya and Egypt - and probably as a result of the political instability in those countries, more disease has reoccurred there and has probably moved up from sub-Saharan Africa. There have also been outbreaks in Israel and Syria," says Simmons.
Reprinted in part from Farmers Weekly