Weekly livestock news: October 30, 2023

New bird flu cases reported in Iowa as disease resurfaces

Two commercial turkey farms in Iowa have been hit by the reemerging highly pathogenic bird flu, causing about 100,000 birds to be killed to prevent the disease from spreading, The Associated Press reports. The Iowa Department of Agriculture reported the infected commercial poultry flocks within weeks of a turkey farm in South Dakota and one in Utah reporting the first outbreaks in the United States since April, raising concerns that more would follow. The USDA shows 12 commercial flocks in South Dakota, Utah and Minnesota have been affected in October, totaling more than 500,000 birds. Bird flu last year cost U.S. poultry producers nearly 59 million birds across 47 states, including egg-laying chickens and turkey and chickens raised for meat, making it the country’s deadliest outbreak ever, according to USDA figures. Iowa was the hardest-hit state last year, with nearly 16 million birds lost.

Oklahoma attorney general joins fight against Massachusetts pig welfare law

Oklahoma Attorney General Gentner Drummond is taking action against a new pig welfare law in Massachusetts. In a court filing, he says it would have negative impacts on the state’s pork producers. The law bans other states from selling or shipping pork to the state if they do not meet Massachusetts hog-housing requirements. The Massachusetts law requires most uncooked pork sold in the state to come from pigs raised in enough space to lay down, stand up, fully extend their limbs and turn around freely. Oklahoma is part of a 13-state coalition arguing the new law is unconstitutional. In the court filing, Drummond says it would have negative impacts on the pork industry and raise pork prices. According to the Oklahoma Department of Agriculture, the state ranks ninth in the nation for hog production, with more than 2 million pigs, KOSU reports.

Study finds consumers are willing to spend more for pork that’s ‘improved’ in terms of animal welfare, climate impact and antibiotics use

Pork production has to deal with challenges on several fronts: antibiotics use, infectious disease, animal welfare, and climate and environmental pressures. But are consumers willing to pay more for a more climate-friendly pork roast? Researchers from the University of Copenhagen’s Department of Food and Resource Economics surveyed respondents from Denmark, Germany, the United Kingdom and Shanghai. The survey demonstrates that three out of four respondents in Denmark, Germany and China, and around 60% of the British respondents, would be willing to pay more for pork that is “improved” in terms of better animal welfare, lower climate impact, decreased antibiotics use, guaranteed freedom from harmful bacteria, and animals that are not fed soy, which leads to the clearing of rainforest. Of the consumers who are open to spending more on pork, the majority are willing to pay up to 20% extra, National Hog Farmer reports.

Officials in Sweden should consider human mediated pork transport in African swine fever outbreak, says SHIC associate director

The Swine Health Information Center suggests an outbreak of African swine fever in wild boar in Sweden is cause to consider the potential implications of the human mediated transport of infected pork products. The Swine Health Information Center’s global and domestic swine disease surveillance report outlines several new outbreaks of African swine fever, highlighting the outbreak in Sweden. SHIC Associate Director Dr. Megan Niederwerder notes ASF was detected for the first time in Sweden last month, in wild boar only, and 41 animals have been confirmed infected. “The association of ASF in Sweden has been discussed because certainly this was a long-distance jump,” Niederwerder said. “The hypotheses are that this [is] associated with human mediated transport.” Swineweb.com has more.

Beef prices likely to remain high for several years, Wells Fargo analyst says

Retail beef prices in the United States are at record highs, pushing up prices of beef-based products from burgers to steaks and steak tartare, largely due to a shrinking cattle supply as well as higher input costs, CNBC reports. Cattle herds have been reduced to their smallest number in decades as a result of prolonged drought in key cattle ranching states like Texas and Kansas, a Wells Fargo analyst said. “All consumers will be paying more for all beef products for several more years,” Wells Fargo chief agricultural economist Michael Swanson said. In its September livestock report, the USDA forecast that beef production in the second half of 2023 is expected to decline by 180 million pounds. “As cattlemen retain cows to rebuild the herd, there is a much lower supply of cattle to provide beef,” Swanson said.

USDA invests $2.3 billion in international trade and food aid program

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced the USDA is investing $2.3 billion to help boost international trade and food aid. The funds will be allocated through the USDA Commodity Credit Corporation. USDA took this action in response to a bipartisan request from the Senate Agriculture Committee, Vilsack said, noting the CCC continues to address American producers’ needs during a challenging time that includes ongoing conflicts and climate change. Approximately $1.3 billion of the announced funds will be used to create a new Regional Agriculture Promotion Program. That initiative will work to help agricultural groups market their commodities overseas. It will supplement funds provided by the Market Access Program and Foreign Market Development Program. USDA says that will support specialty crop industries and diversify export markets. The additional $1 billion will be used to provide commodity-based international food aid, Feedstuffs reports.