Weekly equine and livestock news: January 30, 2023

Indiana veterinarian discusses state’s large-animal care shortage

An equine veterinarian in Indiana described the challenges the profession faces due to a shortage of large-animal caregivers. “A lot of my clients ask me, ‘Why can’t you just find another vet?’ I don’t think they realize what it costs to hire another vet,” Dr. Natalie Skillman, owner of Skillman Veterinary Services, told The Herald Bulletin. Skillman noted that “there aren’t many veterinarians out there who want to go into large-animal or equine practice” given financial and logistical challenges.

Bird flu threatens the poultry industry, and scientists worry what it could mean for humans

More than 58 million birds have died in the past year in the United States’ worst outbreak of bird flu to date. The poultry industry likely cannot “sustain itself in countries like the U.S. if we continue to see annual surges” of the highly infectious virus, said Dr. Michael Osterholm, director of the University of Minnesota’s Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy. The poultry industry needs “to change biosecurity procedures,” Osterholm told Fortune. He and epidemiologist Rajiv Chowdhury also warned that if the virus mutates and becomes transmissible among humans, the world could face a deadly pandemic.

EPA considers tougher regulation of livestock farm pollution

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency says it will study whether to toughen regulation of large livestock farms—known as Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations, or CAFOs—that release manure and other pollutants into waterways. The agency hasn’t revised the rules since 2008. The announcement comes in response to a lawsuit brought by the environmental group Food & Water Watch. In its study, the EPA will determine whether “the potential environmental benefits of undertaking rulemaking justify devoting the significant resources that are required,” according to the agency. The Associated Press reports.

Farm group urges FTC to investigate high egg prices

The Federal Trade Commission should examine high egg prices for signs of price gouging from top egg companies, the group Farm Action said in a letter to the agency. The price of eggs was up 138% in December over the prior year, at $4.25 a dozen, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The USDA has cited bird flu as the reason for high prices, but Farm Action, an advocacy group, says the FTC should also examine record-high profits at Cal-Maine Foods. The company controls 20% of the retail egg market and reported quarterly sales up 110% and gross profits up more than 600% over the same quarter in the prior fiscal year, according to a December filing. Reuters reports.

North Dakota bill would loosen corporate farm restrictions

A bill in North Dakota’s legislature would allow farmers to avoid breaking the state’s anti-corporate farming law by operating a feedlot for cattle, hogs or poultry in partnership with a corporate entity like a meatpacker. The law would apply to dairies too, Agweek reports. Currently North Dakota law limits farms to family ownership. Feedlots under the proposed bill would no longer fall under the definition of farming and ranching. Supporters say this would provide a needed boost to livestock production in the state, but opponents say it would allow for more foreign and corporate ownership of farmland.

How could ChatGPT change agriculture?

Agriculture law expert Todd Janzen asked the new chatbot ChatGPT the top five ways it will revolutionize U.S. agriculture. ChatGPT, an artificial intelligence-powered robot created by OpenAI, has recently become a flashpoint in the news, gaining fame for its ability to produce essays and poetry that seem like they come from a human. In response to Janzen’s query, the robot said it will revolutionize U.S. agriculture through predictive analytics, crop and livestock monitoring, automation of manual tasks and precision agriculture. According to Janzen, while the predictions come across as knowledgeable, they don’t mean much. Still, he writes in his blog, the bot has promise.