Outbreaks of foot-and-mouth disease persist in dairy cattle herds in Saudi Arabia despite revaccination at intervals of 4–6 months. Vaccine trials provide data on antibody responses following vaccination. Using this information we developed a mathematical model of the decay of protective antibodies with which we estimated the fraction of susceptible animals at a given time after vaccination. The model describes the data well, suggesting over 95% take with an antibody half-life of 43 days. Farm records provided data on the time course of five outbreaks. We applied a ‘SLIR’ epidemiological model to these data, fitting a single parameter representing disease transmission rate. The analysis provides estimates of the basic reproduction number, R0, which may exceed 70 in some cases. We conclude that the critical intervaccination interval which would provide herd immunity against FMDV is unrealistically short, especially for heterologous challenge. We suggest that it may not be possible to prevent foot-and-mouth disease outbreaks on these farms using currently available vaccines.