March 7, 2006

Brazil State to Cull Cattle for Foot and Mouth

SAO PAULO, Brazil (Reuters) - Brazil's southern farming state of Parana said it will begin culling cattle on Wednesday in areas infected with foot and mouth disease, over four months after the first outbreak was suspected in the state.

Since the announcement of the disease on October 10 in the main cattle state of Mato Grosso do Sul, 55 countries have partially or entirely banned meat imports from Brazil.

The slaughter will begin with 143 animals on a ranch in the municipality of Maringa, where one of the seven cases of the fast spreading disease cropped up in the state. The first case of foot and mouth in the state was confirmed on December 6.

Humans have little risk of contracting the disease, which causes sores around the hooves and mouths of cloven-hoofed animals such as cattle, goats, sheep, pigs and deer.

In all, 6,500 animals are expected to be put down in the cull.

Brazil has the world's largest commercial herd of around 190 million head of cattle and is the world's largest exporter of beef. It shipped 2.3 million tons of beef worth $3.1 billion in 2005.

Most of Brazil's productive region, including Mato Grosso do Sul and Parana, are under a vaccination program aimed at preventing such outbreaks. Poor storage, transport or use of the vaccine is believed to have undermined its effectiveness.