FAO in Pakistan

Farming Without Fear of Diseases

Through its Progressive Control of Foot and Mouth Disease (FMD) in Pakistan Project, FAO promotes development and use of vaccine against FMD in various dairy communities.

“Now I am convinced that we can undertake dairy farming without the fear for Foot and Mouth Disease if we use good quality vaccine,” says Haji Mahmood, a livestock breeder who lives in Malhoana area of Jhang District, Punjab Province.

For the past two years, Mahmood’s farm has been participating in the FAO project titled, Progressive Control of Foot and Mouth Disease (FMD) in Pakistan.  Launched in late 2010 with funding from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the project works to promote the use of effective vaccination against FMD as a means to preserve the productivity of dairy animals. 

A major portion of Mahmood’s income comes from dairy farming and bull breeding. The entire area of Malhoana is famous for milk production, and dairy animals play a pivotal role in the local economy.  

Like many dairy farmers throughout Pakistan, Mahmood used to dread even the thought of FMD. “In fear of bringing it upon our livestock, we do not even talk about FMD when we are in the dairy farm,” says Haji Mahmood. Every year, FMD causes huge economic losses in dairy animals throughout Pakistan by drastically reducing milk yields, killing young calves, and adding the cost of treatment to farm expenses:  An animal infected with FMD produces 20%-30% less milk for the rest of its life; an FMD outbreak can cost as much as 9,000 Rupees (US$90) a month per dairy animal due to milk loss alone.

For years, farmers have tried to prevent FMD by using locally available vaccines, but the disease appeared to be resistant to vaccination. “We were convinced that nothing could prevent it,” says Haji Mahmood. So when in 2012, a local veterinarian informed Haji Mahmood about the FAO project, he refused to participate. But the veterinarian was persuasive, and finally, the farmer joined the project.

Since then, FAO has been administering preventive FMD vaccination to all the animals that Haji Mahmood owns.  The vaccine is designed to work against the locally available strains of FMD virus, and is twice as potent as the generic FMD vaccines available in the market. During the three years of the project, approximately 200,000 animals have been receiving routine vaccination, and another 200,000 received emergency vaccination during FMD outbreaks in various dairy communities across the country. 

Despite the multiple FMD outbreaks in the area in the past two years, none of Haji Mahmood’s animals have contracted FMD since the beginning of FAO vaccination at his farm. “Now I am thankful to the veterinarian and to the project as these two years have been the only time in my life when I did not have to deal with FMD,” says Haji Mohmood.