These are uncertain times, and business as usual is no longer the status quo. The U.S. livestock industry has long benefitted from the security of isolation, however, we've seen that nothing is untouchable today.

In a recent news conference, U.S. Department of Homeland Security Director, Tom Ridge, pointed to the food supply and U.S. agriculture as a potential target for terrorism. Certainly this week, we all watched Ridge boost the terrorism threat level to ORANGE, which indicates a high risk of attack to U.S. interests both domestically and overseas.

The question– or challenge– to you, your family, employees and herd consultants is, are your eyes open to watch for early signs of disease, bacterial and other exposures within your herd?

Foreign animal disease (FAD) surveillance should always be a priority within your operation, but today more than ever. USDA's Veterarinary Services officials are encouraging everyone involved in disease  diagnosis, animal movement or livestock production and marketing, to be watchful for any indication that could signal exposure to any highly contagious disease or any other unusual or unexplained adverse animal health event. "No potential FAD cases should be disregarded," say officials. "Potential hoaxes should be treated as suspect incursions of a disease until
proven otherwise."

USDA's Veterinary Services suggests that you be particularly alert to these five signs:

1.  Sudden, unexplained death loss of animals in the herd.
2.  Severe illness affecting a high percentage of animals.
3.  Blistering around an animal's mouth, nose, teats or hooves.
4.  Unusual ticks or maggots.
5.  Staggering, falling or central-nervous system disorders.

USDA emphasizes that if you see anything unusual, you should contact your local law enforcement authorities immediately and notify your state animal health office, and/or the state veterinarian.