Weekly livestock news: August 21, 2023

Texas cattle ranchers battle drought and extreme heat

For the second summer in a row, drought and extreme heat are stressing the health of cattle in Texas—the top U.S. beef-producing state—leading some ranchers to consider thinning their herds to save money on animal feed and hay, Reuters reports. Dry conditions last year drove ranchers in East Texas to sell more than 2.66 million cattle from January 2022 through August 2022, an increase of more than 480,000 cattle compared to that time period the previous year, according to the Texas Farm Bureau. The drought, triple-digit heat and lack of food impacts just about every facet of the cattle industry, including how much milk the calves get, how the cows fatten up, how much they reproduce and how much a steak will cost.

Research aims to strengthen prevention against PRRSV


Two University of Nebraska–Lincoln scientists, Hiep Vu and Sarah Sillman, have received a $627,000 federal grant to study porcine reproductive and respiratory syndrome virus. PRRSV is widespread, causing reproductive failure in sows and major respiratory illness in pigs of all ages. The virus modulates the pig’s immune system, making the animal more susceptible to other infectious diseases. The costs to the U.S. swine sector from PRRSV annually total an estimated $1.1 billion. The UNL project will examine how PRRSV infects swine macrophages, the immune cells that recognize, engulf and destroy harmful intruders, including viruses and bacteria. Figuring out which cells the virus can attack and how it gets inside them strengthens scientists’ ability to create vaccines and intervention strategies to stop the virus’ spread and harmful effects.

Two swine flu cases this year appear to have started at Michigan fair exhibits

Two people have caught flu strains that normally circulate in pigs, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Each patient became ill with flu-like symptoms about 10 days after visiting pig exhibits at two different agricultural fairs in Michigan in early and late July. Neither was hospitalized, and their infections do not appear to have spread to other people, the CDC said. Both cases were identified by the Michigan Department of Health. Although there are a few such cases in the United States each year, the illnesses highlight the possibility that flu viruses have the ability to jump from animals such as birds and pigs to humans. The CDC advises people to avoid eating or drinking around pig exhibits at state or agricultural fairs and to sanitize hands after visiting swine exhibits. ABC 7 reports.

Brazil chicken supplies are growing, contributing to global glut

Accelerated Brazilian chicken production will continue at least through the end of 2024, according to a lobby group for chicken and pork processors, a sign that a global chicken glut may not subside soon, Reuters reports. An oversupplied chicken market affected Brazilian meatpackers’ earnings in recent quarters and forced companies like Tyson Foods in the United States to shut capacity. ABPA, which represents companies like JBS and BRF, said Brazil’s 2023 chicken output could potentially increase by up to 3% to 14.95 million metric tons at the end of the year. Next year, chicken output may grow as much as 4.5% to 15.5 million metric tons, the group added. Brazil, one of the world’s largest chicken producers alongside China, the United States and the European Union, was previously expected to produce 15 million metric tons of chicken in 2023, ABPA’s president reported.

Rancher urges Congress to address wildfires through grazing and land management

Dr. Dave Daley, a leader of the California Cattlemen’s Association, Public Lands Council and National Cattlemen’s Beef Association, testified before the House Natural Resources Committee, focusing on the need for the federal government to look holistically at land management and recognize that livestock grazing is an important tool for reducing the risk of catastrophic wildfires. He also recommended that Congress utilize federal legislation, like the forestry title of the 2023 farm bill, to strengthen tools like grazing, prescribed fire, timber thinning and other effective forestry management practices. Beef Magazine reports.

Industry leaders discuss future of cattle business

Jeff Savell, Texas A&M’s dean for the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, recently told a crowd of cattle producers that a seminar on the key areas of progress in cattle production and marketing over the last 40 years should be a 15-week class. Savell’s look at the last four decades in the cattle business set the stage for industry leaders to discuss the opportunities and challenges producers will face in the coming decades and highlighted the general session of Texas A&M’s Beef Cattle Short Course. The Eagle reports.