Weekly livestock news: April 25, 2022

Genvax Technologies gets $145,000 to develop African swine fever vaccine

Iowa-based startup vaccine developer Genvax Technologies has received a $145,000 grant from the Foundation for Food & Agriculture Research to develop an African swine fever vaccine. Genvax, which provided a matching investment for a total of $290,000, is researching the vaccine in collaboration with USDA. The company is developing a messenger RNA vaccine, which triggers the immune system to make antibodies that can successfully attack and destroy an invading virus. Researchers will test the vaccine at the Agricultural Research Services’ Plum Island Animal Disease Center, a division of USDA, to determine if it will protect swine exposed to a severe strain of ASF. If successful, Genvax will seek approval from USDA’s Center for Veterinary Biologics to deploy the vaccine in the United States should an outbreak occur.

As bird flu spreads, experts warn backyard flock owners to be on the lookout

Much attention during this year’s bird flu outbreak has been focused on commercial poultry flocks, which make up the bulk of cases. But state officials and scientists are also warning that backyard flock owners should stay alert. Bird flu has already reached small backyard flocks in Missouri, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas and Nebraska. “The backyard or small flock producers, they’re not as aware of this,” Don Reynolds, a professor and poultry veterinarian at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, told St. Louis Public Radio. “So they are more susceptible.” Some backyard poultry owners may not be around their birds as much as commercial producers looking for symptoms, Reynolds said. They also need to be on the lookout for wild birds passing through on their migration and mingling with their chickens. Wild birds can shed the virus through saliva or droppings, or drinking from the same water as backyard birds or eating from bird feeders.

FBI warns of high threat of cyberattacks to farmers during planting and harvesting seasons

The FBI is warning farmers and agricultural cooperatives to be on alert for potential cyberattacks during planting and harvesting seasons. These groups are especially vulnerable to attacks at this time, when cyber criminals think they’re more likely to pay ransoms, AgWeb reports. The FBI has reported multiple attacks on agricultural cooperatives since 2021, resulting in service issues and production disruptions. These attacks have the potential to disrupt the entire food chain. The agency is asking the industry to take defensive measures against potential attacks, including regularly backing up data offline, implementing a recovery plan and an operations plan in case systems are taken offline, and installing updates on operating systems as soon as they’re released. The full guidelines were issued in a notice from the FBI.

United Nations asks for $115.4 million in donations to support Ukraine farmers

The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations is asking for donations of $115.4 million, more than double an initial request, to support Ukraine’s agriculture. One-third of the country’s crops and agricultural land may not be harvested or cultivated this year due to the invasion by Russia, FAO said. “FAO’s immediate concern is to support the ongoing spring planting season and to prevent the disruption of the upcoming winter crop harvesting, which typically occurs in June-July, and could severely threaten food security in the country,” said Rein Paulson, FAO director of emergencies and resilience. The organization said that with the money, it would support 376,660 small and medium-size farm families, about 1 million people total, through December. It’s received $8.5 million so far, which it plans to use to provide wheat seed and other crop materials to small -scale farmers, Successful Farming reports.

Biden launches program to help rural communities apply for federal funds

The Biden administration has launched a network of partners throughout the country to ensure rural communities can easily access needed funding available through the 2021 pandemic relief law and the infrastructure law signed last fall. The Rural Partners Network will station staff on the ground in rural communities to help them apply for federal funds. Network staff will also be responsible for sharing lessons learned from selected communities with federal agencies in Washington to give those communities a voice in policymaking. The network will initially launch in selected communities in Georgia, Kentucky, Mississippi and New Mexico, and in certain tribes in Arizona. It will be expanded to other states and tribes, as well as Puerto Rico, later in the 2022 fiscal year, with plans to expand it to all 50 states in the 2023 fiscal year, Feedstuffs reports.

New website aims to help stop the spread of infectious equine diseases

A veterinary student at Colorado State University has developed a website to help horse owners and barn managers prevent the spread of infectious diseases at their equine facilities. Third-year veterinary student Caroline Wollman created the site as an equine herpes virus with potentially deadly consequences has been cropping up around the world. “The frequency of equine movements into and out of boarding operations presents a significant ongoing risk of disease introduction and potential spread at these facilities,” said Angela Pelzel-McCluskey, the national epidemiologist for equine diseases at USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service. “That makes it extremely important that boarding facilities have solid biosecurity plans in place.” The website has a biosecurity checklist as well as advice for arriving and leaving the farm, quarantine procedures, day-to-day management, barn design, cleaning and disinfection, and general horse health. Wollman noted the site is mobile phone-friendly to make it easy to use during inspections.