Weekly livestock and equine news: September 4, 2023

Massachusetts rule takes effect setting animal confinement standards for sows and other animals

New restrictions have gone into effect in Massachusetts on the sale of pork from gestating sows in extreme confinement. This follows a delay on implementation of the measures, which are part of a 2016 ballot measure that requires farms, no matter where they operate, to meet minimum animal housing size requirements if they want to sell pork, eggs or veal in the state. The restrictions on the sale of veal and laying hens in extreme confinement have been in effect, but the provision on the sale of pork from gestating sows in extreme confinement was delayed. Known as Question 3, the rules went fully into effect August 24 because of the expiration of a court-ruled stay on enforcement, The Sun Chronicle reports.

Farmers breed heat-resistant cows

A natural mutation found in Puerto Rican dairy cows might keep them healthier in extreme heat. At Vaqueria El Remanso, a small dairy farm west of San Juan, the cows have a freshly shaven look. Their short hair is the result of a natural mutation known as “slick,” which Rafael López-López, who runs El Remanso, has been breeding into his cows for decades. The genetic mutation that gives slick cows a shorter coat and more active sweat glands also helps them maintain a healthy body temperature. Cows are most comfortable in temperatures between 41 and 77 degrees Fahrenheit, which means livestock around the world are struggling to cope with hotter and longer summers. Over the span of just two hot, humid days in June 2022, an estimated 10,000 cows died in Kansas, and experts say it will only get worse, Nexus Media News reports.

Gene discovery could help scientists breed pigs resistant to African swine fever

Scientists have identified a critical gene within pigs that plays a pivotal role in the infection process of African swine fever, opening the possibility of developing ASF-resistant pigs, AgWeb reports. The gene acts as a key accomplice for the ASF virus to establish infection. By uncovering the fundamental role of this gene, researchers have set the stage for potential breakthroughs in breeding pigs that possess natural resistance against ASF. Through meticulous laboratory investigations, researchers dissected pig cells, systematically removing specific genes to observe their response to the ASF virus. The research spotlight fell on a cluster of genes responsible for producing immunity-related proteins, part of the MHC-II complex, an integral component of the pig’s immune response. Within this complex, a solitary protein named SLA-DM emerged as the linchpin for the virus’s replication within cells.

FFA Foundation provides support and funding for youth in agriculture

The Montana FFA Foundation is a nonprofit group designed to help support young people who have expressed an interest in agriculture. “Our goal is to support FFA members and chapters by holding leadership and personal development events, as well as providing scholarship grants directly to students,” said Montana FFA Foundation Director of Development Morgan Kuntz. “Our grants go to fund the student’s supervised agriculture experience.” Kuntz, an FFA alum, said her supervised agriculture experience was raising a head of beef cattle that helped her earn money she saved for college. She was then able to grow her herd and continues raising cattle today. “A lot of our students are kids who nine times out of 10 will end up using their SAE as a platform for what they want to do later in life,” she noted. The Prairie Star has more.

South Carolina reports first summer cases of eastern equine encephalitis

Eastern equine encephalitis was recently detected in two South Carolina horses, leading to their death, according to state veterinarian Michael J. Neault, director of Clemson Livestock Poultry Health. A 2-year-old Sumter County horse was diagnosed with the disease during its necropsy. The second horse was a 5-year-old quarter-horse mare in Lee County that was euthanized. The two horses are reportedly the first cases of the summer, although another case of EEE was confirmed in a horse in Berkely County in mid-January. Neault reminded horse owners of the importance of creating a vaccination schedule to protect their animals from EEE, West Nile virus and rabies. WPDE reports.

SoundByte: Equi-Jec from Boehringer Ingelheim

Equi-Jec® provides protection for horses against as many as seven diseases in one vaccine, according to manufacturer Boehringer Ingelheim. It contains a contemporary strain of West Nile virus and is safe for pregnant mares and horses 4 months of age or older. Find out more, including sales tips, in the SoundByte from Veterinary Advantage.