Weekly livestock and equine news: April 29, 2024

Dairy cows moving across state lines must be tested for bird flu: USDA

The Biden administration will begin requiring dairy cows moving across state lines to be tested for bird flu, which has been spreading in herds for months. The new policy is part of a growing effort to stamp out the spread of a virus that federal health officials have sought to reassure Americans poses little risk to people so far, The New York Times reports. The new order, issued by the USDA, says lactating cows must test negative for influenza A viruses, a class that includes bird flu, before they are transported. The owners of herds with positive tests will need to provide data on the movements of the cattle to help investigators trace the disease. The testing will help protect the livestock industry, limit the spread of the virus and “better understand this disease,” said Mike Watson, a senior USDA official. The USDA’s announcement came shortly after the agency said cow-to-cow transmission is a factor in the spread of the virus in dairy herds.

Bird flu outbreak in cows likely started late last year, analysis finds

The H5N1 bird flu outbreak in dairy cows in the United States has likely been going on longer than was realized and has probably spread more widely across the country than the confirmed outbreaks would imply, according to an analysis of genetic sequences released by the USDA. The genetic data point to a single spillover event that probably occurred in late 2023, said Michael Worobey, an evolutionary virologist at the University of Arizona. “The bad news is it looks like this is well entrenched and has been in cattle for a long time and…probably very, very, very widespread,” said Worobey, who worked on the analysis with a number of scientists in the United States and Europe. He suggested the outbreak needs to be taken more seriously than it has been until now, especially given humans’ exposure to cattle, STAT News reports.

Colorado livestock groups urge state action after wolves kill animals

Colorado’s North Park Stockgrowers Association asked Colorado Parks and Wildlife to remove wolves that have killed six head of livestock since the beginning of April, KUSA reports. The association in Jackson County voiced its concerns in a letter to Governor Jared Polis and CPW. The Middle Park Stockgrowers Association in Grand County has also written letters to the state. Both counties have had wolf depredations since the beginning of April, including five in Grand County and one in Jackson County. “If it need be reminded, CPW is held accountable by the voters of Colorado per the Colorado Wolf Restoration and Management Plan that, ‘Restoration of the gray wolf to the state must be designed to resolve conflicts with persons engaged in ranching and farming in this state,’” the North Park Stockgrowers letter stated.

WSU researchers to study effect of controversial drug on racehorses

Washington State University researchers have been awarded more than $370,000 for a two-year study on the impact of a controversial drug administered to thoroughbred racehorses before most races in the United States to reduce bleeding in the animals’ lungs. The drug in question, furosemide, a diuretic commonly known as Lasix, has been shown to reduce the prevalence and severity of exercise-induced pulmonary hemorrhage, a condition that causes bleeding in the lungs during exercise. Some experts, however, question its effectiveness, contending it leads to other health ramifications while also creating public perception issues for the sport. The grant was awarded by the Horseracing Integrity and Safety Authority, a private self-regulatory organization created by Congress in 2020 to regulate thoroughbred racing in the United States. HISA is expected to make a final decision on the use of furosemide in 2026.

Impossible Foods says its new ranch will be a safe haven for cattle

Located in South Carolina on 70 acres of farmland, Impossible Ranch focuses on rescuing cattle and repurposing the land to grow the crops used to make the company’s plant-based meat products, according to the announcement. The company will invest in growing and harvesting crops such as soybeans, sunflowers and coconut trees, all of which are key ingredients in its beef, chicken and pork products. Impossible says that in refocusing the land on plants, Impossible Ranch will also serve as a safe haven for cattle on the property.

New Cornell facility aims to support research on livestock and climate resiliency

Cornell University has opened new “animal respiration stalls” that officials say will enable research on livestock feed, health and climate impacts. The individual, climate-controlled rooms are made of stainless steel with glass windows. According to the announcement, researchers will use them to understand how much greenhouse gas livestock produce and what management techniques could reduce those climate-warming gases. “The overall goal is to optimize meat and milk production, ensure animal health and welfare, and minimize greenhouse gas emissions and nutrient waste,” said associate professor Joseph McFadden.