Weekly livestock and equine news: October 9, 2023

France launches mandatory bird flu vaccination campaign in ducks, prompting U.S. trade restrictions

France has begun vaccinating ducks against avian influenza, prompting the United States to impose trade restrictions on French poultry imports, Reuters reports. France has been among the countries most affected by an unprecedented global spread of highly pathogenic avian influenza that has disrupted supply of poultry meat and eggs and sent prices rocketing in many parts of the world in past years. Fears that the virus could mutate into one transmissible to humans prompted the government to launch the mandatory vaccination campaign, making it the first country in the European Union to do so. Vaccination will be mandatory for all ducks on farms that have more than 250 birds and whose products are meant to be sold in the form of meat or foie gras, the agriculture ministry said in a statement.

South Africa culls chickens to contain avian flu

South Africa has culled about 7.5 million chickens in an effort to contain dozens of outbreaks of two separate strains of avian influenza that threaten to create a shortage of eggs and poultry for consumers, according to the government and the national poultry association. At least 205,000 chickens have died from bird flu in at least 60 separate outbreaks across the country, with more than half of those outbreaks in Gauteng province, which includes the country’s biggest city, Johannesburg, and the capital, Pretoria, The Associated Press reports. The 7.5 million birds represented about 20-30% of South Africa’s total chicken stock, South African Poultry Association general manager Izaak Breitenbach said. Some grocery stores in Johannesburg were limiting the number of eggs customers were allowed to buy, in some cases to one carton of six eggs, and the government acknowledged there were “supply constraints.”

Record chicken prices squeeze shoppers but help Tyson and other poultry producers

Chicken prices at U.S. grocery stores have hit record highs and should stay elevated as Tyson Foods and other companies dial back poultry production to boost margins, Reuters reports. These higher prices should improve earnings for top producers Tyson and Pilgrim’s Pride, but the costs will put pressure on consumers. One index shows chicken producer profit margins at their highest in a year. U.S. consumption of chicken is expected to exceed 100 pounds per person this year for the first time ever, according to data from the USDA. Meanwhile, beef consumption is forecast to drop to its lowest since 2018 as prices climb due to dwindling cattle supplies. And consumer spending cuts have knocked pork consumption to the lowest since 2015.

NIFA, LifeStock partner to promote programs addressing veterinary shortages

In an effort to raise awareness about opportunities for federal support for food animal veterinarians, the USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture has awarded over $111,000 to the nonprofit LifeStock International. The grants will help promote two NIFA programs offering educational debt relief to veterinarians who commit to working in designated rural veterinary shortage areas, especially areas where food animal veterinary services are in short supply. Only 3-4% of new veterinary graduates have entered food animal-related practice over the past 20 years, according to one report issued earlier this year. Comparatively, about 40% of graduates specialized in this area about 40 years ago. Shortages stem from several factors, including high levels of educational debt that have outpaced potential earnings, especially in the rural United States.

Strategies to treat equine insulin dysregulation

Horses with insulin dysregulation (ID) and hyperinsulinemia are at a greater risk of developing other metabolic problems, such as equine metabolic syndrome and laminitis secondary to these conditions. A horse might develop ID due to insulin resistance, decreased insulin clearance or increased glucose intake and uptake from diets high in nonstructural carbohydrates. Key factors that owners can adjust for their metabolic horse are diet and exercise, but new medications such as sodium-glucose co-transporter 2 inhibitors might support these management efforts. Veterinarians using the drug off-label, however, are advised to do so with caution, as it carries some known side effects. Find out more on The Horse.

Four horses have died at a San Francisco Bay Area racetrack in two weeks

Four horses have died at Golden Gate Fields in the San Francisco Bay Area in the past two weeks, according to California Horse Racing Board spokesperson Mike Marten. Two of the horses were euthanized September 25 and October 1 after they suffered musculoskeletal injuries from racing and exercising. A two-year-old horse died September 27 after an apparent cardio failure, and a fourth horse was euthanized after sustaining a wound in her stall, he said. There have been 12 horse deaths at Golden Gate Fields in 2023, Marten said. Five were recorded as musculoskeletal injuries, which are sustained during racing and training, and seven were non-musculoskeletal, he said. The horse racing board has over 50 safety initiatives in place to ensure horse safety, including a review panel that looks at racing, training and veterinary records of horses entered to run. CNN reports.