Weekly livestock and equine news: May 13, 2024

As livestock move around the country, so does H5N1

Within six weeks of the first case of H5N1 confirmed in dairy cows in Texas, the nine states responsible for more than one-quarter of U.S. dairy production, accounting for 3.5% of the United States’ gross domestic product, each reported H5N1 cases in dairy cows and continue to do so. Questions remain open about the transmission of H5N1 among dairy cows and the possibility of the virus adapting to transmit among humans. In the event of an infectious disease outbreak in livestock—even one that doesn’t directly threaten human health—the costs can be catastrophic. The production of animal products including milk, other dairy products, eggs and meat could decrease drastically. Other costs can come from control efforts or trade bans and loss of consumer demand. For this reason, some experts insist the United States needs real-time tracking of livestock movements, STAT News reports.

Auburn University professors weigh in on avian flu outbreak in dairy cattle

In a Q&A, two Auburn University researchers give their input on the recent outbreak of avian flu in dairy cattle. While the outbreak was somewhat unexpected, it wasn’t necessarily a surprise given how many other mammals have been shown to become infected with the virus, said Shollie Falkenberg, associate professor and coordinator of animal health research at Auburn. Highly pathogenic avian influenza, or HPAI, refers to an influenza A virus that’s extremely contagious and leads to high mortality in poultry, explained Dr. Cris Young, a professor of practice in Auburn’s College of Veterinary Medicine. He added that the prospect of cows transmitting the flu to humans should be concerning. As HPAI mixes with human-adapted strains, the result could be a strain that circulates in people and possibly leads to a pandemic, he said.

Farm states push back on Biden’s bird flu response

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is at odds with state officials and the dairy industry over its on-the-ground response to the avian flu outbreak spreading among dairy cows, complicating President Joe Biden’s efforts to track and contain a virus that has the potential to sicken millions of people, Politico reports. Many farmers don’t want federal health officials on their property. State agriculture officials worry the federal response is sidelining animal health experts at the agriculture department and also that some potential federal interventions threaten to hinder state and local health officials rushing to respond to the outbreaks. The resistance of dairy farmers is emblematic of the trust gap between key agriculture players in both red and blue states and federal health officials—one that public health experts fear could hamper the nation’s ability to head off the virus’ threat to humans.

Asian longhorned tick now found in 19 states

Beef and dairy producers are accustomed to dealing with ticks, but not all ticks are as destructive as the Asian longhorned tick, an invasive pest that the USDA considers a serious threat to livestock. In extreme cases, an infestation of the tick can cause bovine deaths due to blood loss. In 2023, the CDC reported that Asian longhorned ticks have been found in 19 states. Yet it often takes more than pesticides to control them. It requires an integrated approach, says Ohio State University assistant professor Risa Pesapane. Pesapane recommends beef and dairy producers target the ticks early in the season before they lay eggs, to limit how many hatch and reproduce in subsequent years. Bovine Veterinarian has more.

Federal bill would offer financial relief for loss of unborn livestock in disasters

Ranchers who have lost an excessive number of unborn livestock in a disaster would receive financial aid if proposed legislation becomes law, The Texas Tribune reports. Supported by U.S. Senator Ted Cruz and U.S. Representative Ronny Jackson, both of Texas, the bill aims to enhance the Livestock Indemnity Program, administered by the USDA, which pays livestock producers for excess deaths from severe weather, disease or attacks by certain other animals. These payments are determined by the secretary of agriculture and typically equal 75% of the average market price for the animal. But as of now, the program doesn’t cover the loss of unborn livestock.

APHIS bolsters regulations against horse soring

In an effort to end horse soring at Tennessee Walking Horse shows, the USDA Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service announced it’s strengthening Horse Protection Act regulations. The rule will be effective February 1, 2025, the AVMA reports. Soring is the practice of applying a substance or mechanical device to a horse’s forelegs, creating enough pain that the horse will exaggerate its gait to relieve the discomfort. The resulting high-stepping running walk, or “big lick,” is rewarded by horse show judges, although showing a sored horse is illegal. Tennessee Walking Horses commonly suffer from the practice of soring. Other gaited breeds, such as Racking Horses, Spotted Saddle Horses, Rocky Mountain Horses and Missouri Fox-Trotters, may also suffer from soring. Methods used to sore the horse cause it to suffer from physical pain, distress, inflammation or lameness while walking and moving.