Oklahoma's farmers keeping the nation's food supply safe

Friday, October 26th 2001, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

The US Department of Agriculture has issued a warning to Oklahoma farmers and ranchers to look for the warning signs of biological attack.

News on Six reporter Tami Marler talked to a local farmer about the warning. "Well we'll have a little rough rocky tour here." It's a tour Jack Lawson has been taking for nearly 40 years. He's checking his cattle, looking for anything out of the ordinary. "And we check our cattle, and particularly in calving season we check them on a daily basis. Even more so if we have to." With the threat of bioterrorism, the Department of Agriculture is asking producers and local veterinarians to be on the lookout for anything suspicious. In 1957 - we saw how cattle can be affected, more than 1,600 Oklahoma livestock died from anthrax. So livestock handlers may be the first line of defense. "But uh, I always watch for anything. Any death loss in the cattle, or any suspicious activity in the cattle." In fact, Jack Lawson is so careful with his cattle, he met us out at the road Friday, and he said, if he hadn't recognized us, he was prepared to ask for identification. He keeps a very close eye on his livelihood. "They uh seem to be very content and very relaxed. They all seem alert and up and going; and that's the main thing."

The state of Oklahoma says to look for sudden, unexplained deaths, severe illness, blistering around an animal's nose, hooves or udders, unusual ticks or maggots, and central nervous system disorders that cause an animal to stagger or fall. "Beef is our number one thing at this time, and yes, we're looking out for it." Cattle pump $3-billion into Oklahoma's economy, and feed lots of families. People like Jack Lawson have been protecting them for generations.

The state of Oklahoma has also asked cattlemen like Lawson to look out for anyone who doesn't belong around their livestock. There have been no reported cases of livestock anthrax since 1998.