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April 27, 2017

May is Foot-and-Mouth Vaccination Month in Mato Grosso

The state of Mato Grosso is Brazil's largest soybean, corn, and cotton producing state, but what a lot of people don't realize is that it also has Brazil's largest cattle herd estimated at approximately 30 million head. The state has 105,000 ranchers/farms with cattle and all those cattle must be vaccinated yearly against foot-and-mouth disease.

For the first time this year, the yearly vaccination period will be during the month of May instead of November which was the traditional month for vaccinations. Up until 2016, the vaccination occurred during the month of November, but ranchers and farmers petitioned the government to change the vaccination period to May. The Minister of Agriculture and the Plant and Animal Protection Department for the state of Mato Grosso (Indea) agreed to change the date to May starting in 2017. During the month of May, ranchers and farmers are required to vaccinate their entire cattle herd with animals from 0 to 24 months vaccinated again during November.

Ranchers cited a number of reason why they wanted to make the change. There can be heavy rains during the month of November and the rains can interfere with the vaccinations. November is also the main breeding season which also makes vaccinating more difficult. Lastly, a change in the agricultural production practices in the state also played a role.

Many ranchers in the state have been converting some of their pastures to row crop production including a first crop of soybeans followed by a second crop of corn. The soybean planting starts in late September if there is adequate soil moisture and the soybean planting is generally not completed until sometime in November. Therefore, ranchers were complaining that their labor supply was stretched very thin if they had to vaccinate their entire herd at the same time that they were planting and spraying their soybean crop.

They argued that the month of May offered many advantages such as reduced chances of rain interfering with the vaccinations. Their best argument though revolved around there allocation of labor. The soybeans are all harvested by May and the harvesting of the second crop of corn will generally not start until June, so there would not be a conflict of trying to do two major projects at the same time.

The last case of foot-and-mouth disease in the state was over 20 years ago in 1996 and there have been some discussions about the possibility of ending the yearly vaccinations in 2021. One of the concerns scientists from Indea have is that hundreds of ranches in Mato Grosso lie on the dry border with Bolivia where sanitary practices are not as strictly enforced. Cattle in Bolivia that are infected with foot-and-mouth disease could transmit the disease across the border to cattle in Brazil. Therefore, it is unclear if the state will be able to end the yearly vaccinations