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November 1, 2011

Vaccination Against Foot and Mouth Disease Begins in Mato Grosso

While the state of Mato Grosso is known for being the largest soybean producing state in Brazil, it also has the largest cattle herd of any state in the country. According to the Association of Ranchers in Mato Grosso (Acrimat), the state contains over 28 million head of cattle and it is expected to hit 30 million sometime in 2012.

Starting today, November 1st, the ranchers in the state will start to vaccinate their herd against foot and mouth disease. These vaccinations are conducted twice a year and they have been very successful in keeping the state free of the disease for fifteen years and counting. The vaccination period will continue through the end of the month in most of the state with the exception of the Pantanal, where it will terminate December 15th. The Pantanal is a large swampy area encompassing parts of Mato Grosso and Mato Grosso do Sul that floods during the rainy season, but is largely grassland during the dry season. Due to the more difficult logistics of the region, the farmers are given more time to vaccinate their cattle.

Cattle of all ages are required to be vaccinated and the ranchers are required to report to the state authorities evidence that they purchased and administrated the vaccine. In addition to being good stewards of their herds, ranchers have a financial incentive to keep the disease out of the state. In the event that the disease is found, huge numbers of cattle are sacrificed in a radius around the outbreak in an effort to contain the disease.

State officials stress that ranchers along the border with Bolivia must be especially vigilant due to the lax nature of vaccinations in the neighboring country. There are approximately 550 ranches in Mato Grosso that lie along the dry border with Bolivia and just one infected cow that wonders across the border could result in significant financial hardship for the ranchers in the region.

Ranchers in Mato Grosso do Sul have a similar problem with their border with Paraguay. Just recently an outbreak of foot and mouth was reported in a region of Paraguay that borders Brazil. Brazilian officials offered technical assistance to their counterparts in Paraguay in an effort to control the outbreak, but until now, the Paraguayan government has not given permission for them to enter the country.

Most of the expansion of soybean acreage in Mato Grosso this year is occurring in areas where pastureland is being converted to row crop production. This is in response to the stricter environmental regulations that make it much harder to clear new land for row crop production. Even with this conversion of pastureland to row crops, there is still ample land in the state for the expansion of both row crop production and cattle ranching.