Farmers in Sa Kaew’s Aranyaprathet and Khok Sung districts have complained that large numbers of cattle that were distributed for free under the Agriculture Ministry’s “Koban Burapha”, or “Eastern Cowboys, scheme were infected with foot-and-mouth disease (FMD).
Many farmers have also claimed that livestock that they possessed before the implementation of the scheme had been affected by the contagious viral disease.
However, Livestock Development Department’s Sa Kaew branch office head Ampan Werutanti said officials had screened the 600 cattle according to the latest procedures and kept them in quarantine for one month before distributing them to farmers on a pilot basis in mid-October.
He added that officials would investigate the reported outbreak and provide free medicine.
Sa Kaew Governor Pornphot Penpas also said he had told livestock development officials and related agencies to urgently address the problem.
Tambon Han Sai farmer Sawat Hansamorn, 55, told The Nation that he had received five cows under the scheme on October 21 and raised them alongside four healthy cows that he had already owned. Two days later, he said, all the cows had shown symptoms of FMD so he alerted his village’s volunteer veterinarian and bought medicine for Bt440 to treat the cows, all of which then showed signs of recovering.
Sawat said he believed the five new cows had been infected because other farmers had told them their herds had become infected with FMD following the introduction of new cattle.
Sawat’s neighbour, farmer Savitree Thaosalee, 27, said she had added five new cows from the scheme to her pre-existing herd of six cows. She later found that seven cows in her enclosure had fallen sick with FMD, four of which had been provided by the scheme, and she spent Bt2,500 on medication.
She added that the Tambon Han Sai veterinarian had not provided any care or medicine for the sick cows despite the promise of a one-month warranty.
All 11 farmers in the tambon had received cattle under the scheme, most of which had shown FMD symptoms, she said.
“Why would you give me diseased cattle? Besides the five cattle given to me, my five old healthy cows also are now sick. Four of my old cows are pregnant, and now I fear they foetuses will abort,” said another farmer, Nupian Hanmontri, 58.
She added that the village had previously not seen signs of FMD for three years, urging authorities to provide aid.
The Koban Burapha scheme is supposed to distribute five cows per person to help 6,000 Sa Kaew rice farmers become ranchers on about 100,000 rai (16,000 hectares) of rice fields in a massive livestock hub, with beef to be exported to Cambodia and Vietnam in particular within six years.
Under the scheme, which is supposed to extend to 2022 with a budget of Bt900 million, farmers have been encouraged to raise 120,000 cows starting with a “bank” of the 30,000 breeding animals. Another Bt13.2 million has been set aside for raising 27,200 goats from a bank of 3,200 animals.
Another Bt80.6 million was allocated for cultivating grasses and other feed crops on 40,300 rai, while a Bt34.6-million slaughterhouse based on good manufacturing practice will be constructed, with other funding provided by Koban Burapha cooperatives.