The Real Cause Of Hoof and Mouth Disease? : LUSENET : Countryside : One Thread

The Real Cause of Hoof and Mouth Disease

There is growing evidence that foot and mouth is not viral in nature.

Albert Howard, an Honorary Fellow of the Imperial College of Science, was formerly the Director of the Institute of Plant Industry and Agricultural Adviser to States in Central India and Rajputana. His many years farming experience and research into cattle disease and health led him to believe quite firmly that FMD is an opportunistic disease arising as a result of poor diet combined with intensive and therefore unhealthy farming methods.

Howard's battle to establish these facts were at first thwarted by his superiors. We discover that vested interests were alive and well in the early part of the 20th century, just as they are today. Please read the following concise and very illuminating section. Links to the relevant unabridged chapters can be found at the bottom of this page.

This article was written in 1945

Farming And Gardening For Health Or Disease

by Sir Albert Howard C.I.E., M.A.

Honorary Fellow of the Imperial College of Science, Formerly Director of the Institute of Plant Industry, Indore, and Agricultural Adviser to States in Central India and Rajputana


The earth's green carpet is the sole source of the food consumed by livestock and mankind. It also furnishes many of the raw materials needed by our factories. The consequence of abusing one of our greatest possessions is disease. This is the punishment meted out by Mother Earth for adopting methods of agriculture, which are not in accordance with Nature's law of return.

About the year 1910, after five years' firsthand experience of crop production under Indian conditions, I became convinced that the birthright of every crop is health and that the correct method of dealing with disease at an experiment station is not to destroy the parasite, but to make use of it for tuning up agricultural practice.

Foot-and-mouth Disease

If this holds for plants, why should it not apply to animals? I therefore put forward a request to have my own work cattle, so that my small farm of seventy-five acres could be a self-contained unit. I was anxious to select my own animals, to design their accommodation, and to arrange for their feeding, hygiene, and management.

Then it would be possible to see:

1. What the effect of properly grown food would be on the well fed working animal.

2. How such livestock would react to infectious diseases.

This request was refused several times on the ground that a research institute like Pusa should set an example of cooperative work rather than of individualistic effort.

I retorted that agricultural advances had always been made by individuals rather than by groups and that the history of science proved conclusively that no progress had ever taken place without freedom. I did not get my oxen. But when I placed the matter before the Member of the Viceroy's Council in charge of agriculture (the late Sir Robert Carlyle, K.C.S.I.), I immediately secured his powerful support and was allowed to have charge of six pairs of oxen.

I had little to learn in this matter, as I belong to an old agricultural family and was brought up on a farm which had made for itself a local reputation for the management of cattle. My animals were most carefully selected for the work they had to do and for the local climate. Everything was done to provide them with suitable housing and with fresh green fodder, silage, and grain, all produced from fertile soil.

They soon got into good fettle and began to be in demand at the neighboring agricultural shows, not as competitors for prizes, but as examples of what an Indian ox should look like. The stage was then set for the project I had in view, namely, to watch the reaction of these well chosen and well fed oxen to diseases like rinderpest, septicemia, and foot-and-mouth disease, which frequently devastated the countryside and sometimes attacked the large herds of cattle maintained on the Pusa Estate.

I always felt that the real cause of such epidemics was either starvation, due to the intense pressure of the bovine population on the limited food supply, or, when food was adequate, to mistakes in feeding and management.

The working ox must always have not only good fodder and forage, but also ample time for chewing the cud, for rest, and for digestion. The grain ration is also important, as well as a little fresh green food--all produced by intensive methods of farming. Access to clean fresh water must also be provided. The coat of the working animal must also be kept clean and free from dung.

The next step was to discourage the official veterinary surgeons who often visited Pusa from inoculating these animals with various vaccines and sera to ward off the common diseases. I achieved this by firmly refusing to have anything to do with such measures, at the same time asking these specialists to inspect my animals and to suggest measures to improve their feeding, management, and housing, so that my experiment could have the best possible chance of success. This carried the day. The veterinarians retired from the unequal contest and took no steps to compel me to adopt their remedies.

My animals then had to be brought in contact with diseased stock.

This was done by allowing them: (1) to use the common pastures at Pusa, on which diseased cattle sometimes grazed, and (2) to come in direct contact with foot-and-mouth disease.

This latter was easy, as my small farmyard was only separated from one of the large cattle sheds of the Pusa Estate by a low hedge over which the animals could rub noses. I have often seen this occur between my oxen and foot-and-mouth cases. Nothing happened.

The healthy, well-fed animals reacted to this disease exactly as suitable varieties of crops, when properly grown, did to insect and fungus pests--no infection took place. Neither did any infection occur as the result of my oxen using the common pastures.

This experiment was repeated year after year between 1910 and 1923, when I left Pusa for Indore. A somewhat similar experience was repeated at Quetta between the years 1910 and 1918, but here I had only three pairs of oxen. As at Pusa, the animals were carefully selected and great pains were taken to provide them with suitable housing, with protection from the intense cold of winter, and with the best possible food. Again no precautions were taken against disease and no infection took place.

The most complete demonstration of the principle that soil fertility is the basis of health in working animals took place at the Institute of Plant Industry at Indore, where twenty pairs of oxen were maintained. Again, the greatest care was taken to select sound animals to start with, to provide them with a good water supply, a comfortable, well-ventilated shed, and plenty of nutritious food, all raised on humus-filled soil.

One detail of cattle-shed management was the provision of a floor of beaten earth, which is much more restful for the cloven hoof than a cement or brick floor. This was changed every three months, the dry, powdered, urine- impregnated soil afterwards being used as an activator in humus production, for which it proved most suitable. In this way it was possible to bank the spare urine under cover without loss by rain-wash or fermentation. The result of all this was a complete absence of foot-and-mouth and other diseases for a period of six years.

But this is not the whole of the foot-and-mouth story. When the 300 acres of land at Indore were taken over in the autumn of 1924, the area carried no fodder crops, so the feeding of forty oxen was at first very difficult. During the hot weather of 1925 these difficulties became acute.

A great deal of heavy work was falling on the animals, whose food consisted of wheat straw, dried grass, and millet stalks, with a small ration of crushed cotton seed. Such a ration might do for maintenance, but it was quite inadequate for heavy work. The animals soon lost condition and for the first and last time in my twenty-five years' Indian experience I had to deal with a few very mild cases of foot-and-mouth disease in the case of some dozen animals.

The patients were rested for a fortnight and given better food, when the trouble disappeared never to return. But this warning stimulated everybody concerned to improve the hot-weather cattle ration and to secure a supply of properly made silage for 1926, by which time the oxen had recovered condition.

From 1927 to 1931 these animals were often exhibited at agricultural shows as type specimens of what the local breed should be. They were also in great demand for the religious processions that took place in Indore city from time to time, a compliment which gave intense pleasure to the labour staff of the Institute.

This experience, covering a period of twenty-six years at three widely separated centers--Pusa in Bihar and Orissa, Quetta on the Western Frontier, and Indore in Central India--convinced me that foot-and-mouth disease is a consequence of malnutrition pure and simple, and that the remedies which have been devised in countries like Great Britain to deal with the trouble, namely, the slaughter of the affected animals, are both superficial and also inadmissible. Such attempts to control an outbreak should cease.

Cases of foot-and-mouth disease should be utilized to tune up practice and to see to it that the animals are fed on the fresh produce of fertile soil.

The trouble will then pass and will not spread to the surrounding areas, provided the animals there are also in good fettle.

Foot-and-mouth outbreaks are a sure sign of bad farming.

How can such preventive methods of dealing with diseases like foot-and- mouth be set in motion? Only by a drastic reorganization of present-day veterinary research. Instead of the elaborate and expensive laboratory investigations now in progress on this disease, which are not leading to any practical result, a simple preventive trial on the following lines should be started.

The animals should be carefully selected to suit the local conditions and should first of all be got into first-class fettle by proper feeding and management. Everything will then be ready for a simple experiment in disease prevention. A few foot-and-mouth cases should be let loose among the herds, the reaction of both healthy and diseased animals being carefully watched. The diseased animals will soon recover. There will most likely be no infection of the healthy stock. At the worst there will only be the mildest possible attack which will disappear in a fortnight or so."

Originally Published 1945

My name is Trevor Osborne. I was trained as an agricultural scientist and farm advisor in the UK in the early 1950's. This was the time when the chemical farming era just began. We were taught age old methods that worked with nature, not against it as we now do. Pests and diseases were controlled naturally by what was known as good husbandry... both crop husbandry and animal husbandry. The premise was, if your soils are healthy, then your crops will be healthy.

If your crops are healthy then your animals will be healthy. Healthy crops and animals have natural resistance to all disease.

If it were not the case those species would have died out eons ago. Nature does not rely on drugs and mass slaughter to control diseases, it relies on the species natural immunity and they survive because that's the way nature works... when you let it!

It seems we have chosen to ignore the lessons we learned over many centuries. How long is it going to take for humanity to wake up to this fact? What we need to do is learn and practice "health creation" not "disease eradication" both in agriculture and in human health. Then, and only then will be start to reverse the disastrous situation we find ourselves in both sectors.

This brings me to the current Foot & Mouth Disease (FMD) situation. FMD is not a fatal disease under normal classification methods.

It is akin to flu in humans... yes, people can die from it but usually only the weak, elderly and undernourished. In other words those people whose immune systems are low. Simplistically, the same applies to FMD... those animals with very weak immune systems may die. Those with weak immune systems will suffer the symptoms and then recover. Those with strong immune systems will not even exhibit the symptoms.

This being the case the obvious LONG TERM answer to the problem is, build the immune system of the animals. And this is done by practicing good husbandry. This doesn't mean we have to go back 50 or 100 years. No, it is about using what we know of the old, and combining it with the new.

For example, it is well know in some circles that most agricultural soils have been depleted of certain minerals and humus... both of which are necessary for healthy and nutritious crops. There is a quick and economic answer to this. It involves applying mineral-rich volcanic rock dust and organic carbon to the soils.

Two companies I know of in Australia are involved in this, there are probably more in other counties:

1. International Mineral Consultants Pty Ltd:

2. Sustainable Agriculture & Food Enterprises Pty. Ltd.

To supplement my above statements I have attached a document taken from Hansard (Australian Parliament records) and one from the US Congress both of which elude to the importance of soils to animal & human health. If you require more evidence regarding the above please contact me at

I hope this brief overview may provide you with an inkling of where we are collectively heading and what needs to be done to change to a win-win-win direction.

Regards... Trevor Osborne, NDA

-- Tiffani Cappello (, April 12, 2001


Those interested in the further works of Sir Albert Howard should have their local library see if they can obtain a loaner copy of: Sir Albert However in India by Louise E. Howard, An Agriculture Testament by Sir Albert Howard and The Soil and Health: Farming & Gardening for Health or Disease by Sir Albert Howard.

In one his book Louis Bromfield noted the rate of rejection for the draft for WW-II was significantly higher in the Southern than the Northern states. He attributed it largely to diet, particularly a lack of calcium.

It has long been noted insects may devastate a field grown with commerical fertilizers, while an adjoining one grown under organic- like conditions remains unaffected.

-- Ken S. in WC TN (, April 12, 2001.

P.S. When you use a false e-mail address, please check the box to indicate you don't want replies sent to your address.

-- Ken S. in WC TN (, April 12, 2001.

This does not surprise me, just like people. Those that eat a healthy diet don't seem to get sick as often.

-- Lynn Goltz (, April 12, 2001.

I got a returned email as unknown also. I also wonder why it is necessary to use a fake email address and ask for a response to a posting?

-- Lynn Goltz (, April 12, 2001.

I would like to hear Vicki's take on this. She was gracious enough to discuss this with me at length. This is a subject that does still pique my interest. Especially given my comments, and comments made by others on earlier threads.

Ken - perhaps the reason folks give fake email addys is fear. There is word going around (I don't know if it is rumor or not) that one or more persons have sent viruses to other members of this forum. I have heard this from a couple different people. So - I encourage those who mentioned this to contact you privately so that the matter is put to rest.

It is a shame - especially if it is true.

By the way.... what would happen to those people if this IS true???

-- Sue Diederich (, April 12, 2001.

There certainly isn't anything new about this guys approach. Even at goat shows some of us will come home and hear about the rampid ecoli that is destroying everyones goat kids that were at the show, from contamination of the ground water etc. yet my kids are fine. And yes with F&MD it is not terminal except for the young, weak and if the cow goes down from the lessions on the feet, pnemonia will set in an kill it.

The point being that our government and others have protocols for export and import. And unless they are changed, if F&MD hits our shores they will kill all cloven foot animals, whether affected or not, around the perimeter of the diseased stock. Unless these protocols change any vaccinated stock will be destroyed after the outbreak has been contained.

How ironic that all this guy had to say is no where near how stock in the US is raised. Acres of rolling pastures is just a small part of the cattle industry, once the stocker calves are squished into trialers and sent to stocker plants, they live in belly deep muck and are fed whatever by products are available in the area, including rendering plant leavings. After they have made weight or died, only then are they slaughtered. And of course only in America do we ONLY test the dieing, downer cows for BSE.

I for one believe that F&MD was "let loose" on Europe to destroy the cattle, since BSE was much worse than they were letting on. Vicki

-- Vicki McGaugh TX (, April 12, 2001.

Vicki -

Thanks - wanted to hear what you had to say on this one.

So... do we attempt to change the government? Wow... What a concept. If so - then what in the meantime?? If the government's policy is wrong, isn't it the duty of the citizens to change it? But then again, if this person wasn't telling the truth... Back to the same old question...

There was a scare here on this forum about FMD... Fortunately nothing came of it - at least that I heard, haven't kept up. But isn't it late for that?

-- Sue Diederich (, April 12, 2001.

I personally, and I think I can speak for Dave on this also, don't have a problem with people using fake e-mail address for whatever reason they choose. Just please check the box which say not to notify you of any postings against your thread.

Was the F&MD outbreak in England intentional? I rather doubt it. Their import inspections are so lax, it likely just slipped through. A major accident waiting to happen. Could the same thing happen in the U.S.? Yes, but the chances are far less likely. If the first place where it happens just picks up the phone and calls their local vet and say my pigs have something unusual, please come look at them, it might be contained from spreading. Those who say they will hide infected animals will just roll the dice for ever other livestock producer and, for most, it won't come up 7s.

-- Ken S. in WC TN (, April 12, 2001.

It's the owners of the feedlots who need to change, not the government. Yes, the government here could put down rules for cattle feed I quess, but the feedlot owners are the ones who feed the cattle chicken manure mixed with sawdust.

Here in Kentucky alone, are thousands upon thousands of acres of grass just empty. I have driven all over the U.S. and we do have plenty of room to grow cattle for our own country, in my opinion, on grass. But then, they would have to stop putting toxic waste in the liquid fertilizers. And so on.

We used to have millions of buffalo out there, having babies every spring. The land used to be able to sustain them. I would say that their millions of cowpies enriched the soil, and they didn't stay in the same place but a day. They were healthy because they weren't pumped full of drugs and steroids and then fed manure and toxin enriched corn.

Instead of putting manure on grass to then feed to cattle, this country is bypassing the grass stage, and just feeding the manure to them. I don't get it.

-- Cindy in Ky (, April 13, 2001.

No Duh! The homesteader wins again!

-- David C (, April 16, 2001.

I havn't read the whole thing. I think I will print it out to read at my leasure but wanted to put in my 2 cents. Look, for example at people. Look at the way our diet has changed and all the sickness and disease around us. It is easy for our family to forget about in our own little world but I have only to talk to family and friends who work in the medical field or go to church and hear the long long list of prayer requests to see it all around me. We are feeling the effects of the way we produce our food so profoundly and I just wish that people would wake up and see it as it is. Not long ago, (last 25 or 30 yrs I think) a tribe of ppl were found in Pakistan who lived to be 120 to 125 yrs old. A group moved in to study them and why they lived so long. Their diet consisted of mainly apricot seeds. Well, they began to notice that these ppl had a bit of a runny stool and these scientists didn't think that was a good thing so they started to treat their runny stool problem with modern drugs and automatically their life expectancy dropped to around 95 yrs old. Just food for thought. This topic can easily apply to anything livng.

-- Julie D. (, April 16, 2001.

Moderation questions? read the FAQ