Weekly livestock news: October 16, 2023

Scientists use CRISPR to make chickens more resistant to bird flu

Scientists have used the gene-editing technology CRISPR to create chickens that have some resistance to avian influenza, according to a new study published in the journal Nature Communications. The study suggests genetic engineering could potentially be one tool for reducing the toll of bird flu, but it also highlights the limitations and potential risks of the approach, scientists said. Some breakthrough infections still occurred, especially when gene-edited chickens were exposed to very high doses of the virus, they found. And when the scientists edited just one chicken gene, the virus quickly adapted. The findings suggest that creating flu-resistant chickens will require editing multiple genes and that scientists will need to proceed carefully to avoid driving further evolution of the virus, the study’s authors said. The New York Times reports.

EU food safety agency recommends preventive bird flu vaccination

The European food safety agency is recommending preventative bird flu vaccination for susceptible poultry in areas with a high risk of transmission to stem the spread of a virus that killed tens of millions of birds in the EU last year. Governments, often hesitant to use vaccination due to the trade restrictions it can entail, have increasingly considered adopting it due to the devastation bird flu can cause to flocks and to limit the risk of potential transmission between humans. The opinion comes after France became the first European Union country and the world’s first large poultry exporter to launch a nationwide bird flu vaccination campaign. The EFSA also recommended that, in the event of an outbreak, emergency protective vaccination should be carried out in a 3-kilometer (1.9 mile) radius of the outbreak in high-risk transmission areas, Reuters reports.

Wisconsin farmer says producers still need medications amid new FDA guidance on antibiotic use

New federal guidance will define how long farms can feed antibiotics to livestock as a way to address antibiotic resistance. But some Wisconsin farmers say they want to make sure they don’t lose access to medications that keep their animals healthy, WPR reports. The FDA recently published the new draft guidance that would require manufacturers of livestock antibiotics to define the length of time the drugs can be used in an animal. According to the agency, nearly 100 approved antimicrobial drugs for animals currently don’t have a stated duration of use. The new guidance only affects antibiotics that are used in feed for livestock. The agency said drugs that are injected or given in pill form already have defined durations of use. However, Brady Zuck, president of the Wisconsin Cattlemen’s Association, said a big concern is that farmers are able to continue using medications their livestock need.

Iowa Beef Center to host inaugural Genetic Symposium

The inaugural Genetic Symposium hosted by the Iowa Beef Center is set for December 18-19 in Ames, Iowa. The program is designed to educate producers on the tools available for making genetic improvements to their operation. Topics include bull fertility, genetic prediction and data collection. “Understanding the tools available for genetic selection can help you choose the right bull for your operation,” said Iowa State University extension cow-calf specialist Randie Culbertson, who planned the program. “Attendees will learn from the best in the industry, from leading beef cattle geneticists to bull buyers to breeders who apply the tools available to make genetic improvements for their herds. We’ll also have demonstrations on carcass ultrasound and bull development.” Attendees will hear from a bull stud panel, keynote speakers on bull buying and a producer panel discussing bull selection from a seedstock perspective.

Farmers warn of dangerous high-nitrate cattle feed

Farmers typically feed their cattle ground-up corn plants, including the stalks, leaves and ears in a mixture called silage. But severe drought in Iowa has disrupted the biological process that normally converts nitrates into protein in the silage, prompting livestock experts to warn of potentially lethal levels of nitrate in the silage this year, Public News Service reports. They recommend farmers get it tested before feeding it to their cattle. Typically, moisture would carry the nitrate into the stalk and convert it to protein, but that has not happened because of below-average rainfall, said Beth Doran, a beef specialist with Iowa State University. Even though the summer heat has subsided and there has been some rainfall across the state, the moisture can cause almost as much harm as severely dry weather because the corn plant is getting mixed signals from nature, she added.

How can nutrition prevent E. coli in weaned pigs?

The incidence of post-weaning diarrhea (PWD) often results from exposure to infectious pathogens such as rotavirus, salmonella or E. coli. Sensitivity to PWD is also affected by physiological and metabolic changes of the gastrointestinal system that occur at the time of weaning, leaving the newly weaned pig more vulnerable to enteric disease outbreaks. A team of Kansas State University researchers explain how the right nutrition can help. To prevent pathogen-induced diarrhea in weanling pigs, pharmacological levels of zinc (2,000 to 3,000 ppm) from zinc oxide are commonly fed for the first two to three weeks after weaning. Feeding low-CP diets during the first seven to 14 days after weaning is an important strategy that can be used to decrease the amount of protein entering the large intestine for fermentation. Soluble fibers are known to increase intestinal viscosity. And decreasing gastric pH has proven helpful as well.