Weekly livestock news: June 10, 2024

Third human H5N1 case detected in the U.S.

A third person has tested positive for H5N1 avian flu in the United States, the second case to be detected in Michigan, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. This new case doesn’t seem to indicate human-to-human transmission of the highly pathogenic flu, as it was detected on a different farm from the previous Michigan case, The Guardian reports. That said, this is the first time in the U.S. outbreak a person with H5N1 has displayed respiratory symptoms, unlike the previous two cases, which resulted in conjunctivitis. The respiratory symptoms are concerning because they “increase the odds of exposing someone to the virus as compared to conjunctival symptoms,” said Dr. Nirav Shah, principal deputy director of the CDC. “Someone who’s coughing may be more likely to transmit the virus than someone who has an eye infection like conjunctivitis.”

U.S. allows bulk milk testing for bird flu before cattle transport

U.S. farmers will be able to test bulk supplies of milk from their dairy cows for bird flu rather than milk from individual cows before gaining approval to ship them across state lines, the USDA said. According to Reuters, the change shows how government officials are trying to contain the disease while minimizing economic damage to farmers, although some veterinarians warn the bulk tests may be insufficient. Farmers said testing milk from bulk storage tanks offers the chance to collect a sample from all the cows within a herd and would be more efficient than testing samples from individual animals. Under the new program, farms with herds that test negative for three consecutive weeks using bulk tank milk samples will be able to move cattle without additional pre-movement testing. Farmers then need to submit milk samples from bulk tanks weekly.

Cargill shifts beef production after weeklong strike at Canada plant

Cargill was shifting beef production to other facilities after halting operations at a Canada plant due to a weeklong strike at the facility, Bloomberg reports. Beef processing at Cargill’s Dunlop plant in Guelph, Ontario, was halted after about 1,000 workers began striking May 27. The plant has capacity to process 1,500 head of cattle per day. The workers rejected a proposal that the company said would have raised wages by 9.3% in the first year of a four-year agreement. The Ontario plant suspension comes as profit margins of North American beef producers have been under pressure due to a shortage of slaughter-weight cattle.

Researchers use aerosol vaccine to protect poultry from deadly bacterial disease

A University of Saskatchewan research team has developed an aerosol vaccine that they say is proving effective protecting young broiler chicks against necrotic enteritis, a deadly disease in poultry that also affects humans. The bacterial disease is caused by the intestinal overgrowth of Clostridium perfringens type G in poultry, contributing to a 50% fatality rate among affected chickens and numerous food poisoning cases in people. “This disease is basically re-emerging right now because of less use of antibiotics in the poultry industry,” said Dr. Hemlata Gautam, a PhD candidate based in the Department of Veterinary Pathology at the Western College of Veterinary Medicine. She’s investigating alternative strategies to control and prevent the spread of necrotic enteritis without antibiotic drugs. “What we have found is just by giving chicks one single vaccine dose by the lungs, we are able to protect them against necrotic enteritis,” she said.

New avian virus appears for the first time in southern Ontario

Two farms in southwestern Ontario have lost at least 253 turkeys to the avian metapneumovirus subtype B, a virus that until now was unheard of in the province, the CBC reports. The arrival of the virus in Ontario comes at the same time as concerns continue to mount over the highly contagious H5N1 avian flu, which has made the jump from poultry to cows and even humans. The Feather Board Command Centre, which coordinates Ontario’s poultry industry in response to disease risks, has issued the latest in a number of increasingly urgent warnings to the province’s poultry farmers. It includes a recommendation that biosecurity protocols at farms be heightened, particularly on farms in certain counties. The farming organization Turkey Farmers of Ontario said it has been aware of the arrival of aMPV in Ontario since late April.

Utah and Kentucky aim to make veterinary education more accessible

Utah State University has broken ground on the state’s first veterinary college, KSL reports. Previously, students would study for two years at Utah State and then finish veterinary school at Washington State University. The new project has been made possible by the efforts of those like John Mathis, a former member of the Utah House of Representatives who wanted to provide the opportunity for veterinary education to everyone, especially those in rural areas. Construction for the state-funded building is expected to be complete by summer 2026. In other news, the Kentucky Veterinary Medical Association has launched a loan repayment program allowing licensed veterinarians to receive $87,500 in student loan relief if they commit to practicing in rural or underserved areas for five years. The goal is to incentivize graduates to work in rural communities without the pressure of paying off so much debt, WLKY reports.