Weekly livestock news: January 22, 2024

Avian flu tests veterinarians’ resolve

Veterinarians from multiple areas of the profession are bracing for an extended epidemic of avian influenza, the VIN News Service reports. An especially transmissible and persistent strain of highly pathogenic avian flu, first detected in 2020, is now known to be circulating on every continent apart from Australia and Antarctica, threatening to become endemic in multiple countries. In the United States, more than 81 million birds in commercial or backyard poultry operations have been affected since the strain was first detected stateside in 2022, according to the USDA, and 2024 is shaping up to be another hard year. As of January 11, the USDA said 8.82 million commercial and backyard birds had been affected in the past 30 days, a large number of them in Northern California, accounting for 11% of the total number of birds affected in the United States so far.

Beef industry benefits from high cattle prices, even as it faces pressure from inflation

Although high cattle prices mean higher prices at the grocery store, consumer demand remains robust, agricultural economists say. However, while ranchers are getting top dollar for animals, they face higher overall costs. The beef industry weathered the disruptions of the pandemic but faces headwinds of high feed and fuel costs. High interest rates for equipment take another bite out of profits. Jane Evans Cornelius, who owns the family-run business Coyote Ridge Ranch in LaSalle, Colorado, said the impacts of high prices ripple throughout the industry. Coyote Ridge doesn’t raise cattle that wind up in grocery stores. Their Herefords provide breeding stock. “We’re benefitting (from the high prices), but the net income is not as dramatic as you would like,” Cornelius said. “It’s being eaten up by inflation.” The Denver Post reports.

What do consumer preferences mean for beef producers?

Practically every new dollar that enters the U.S. beef industry originates from consumers who purchase beef products. Anything producers can do to positively influence consumer demand for beef will ultimately benefit them. Research suggests beef product freshness is essential, as is ensuring food safety. Because beef price matters, development and adoption of production technologies that make the industry more efficient will affect long-term prosperity of producers. Beef quality including flavor, juiciness and tenderness also are important to many consumers. Only 25% of consumers appear to want beef produced without hormones, so producers shouldn’t over-expand this niche. A niche market opportunity may be present for low-carbon beef; however, it represents a small market segment that most producers are not likely to benefit pursuing. That said, consumer preference varies, at times making it challenging for producers, Kansas State University economist Ted Schroeder writes in Beef magazine.

University Products says its experimental vaccine plays a vital role in fighting bovine anaplasmosis

University Products says it’s helping tackle the threat of bovine anaplasmosis in South Dakota and beyond. The company reportedly produces the only vaccine (for experimental use) against anaplasmosis. As climate conditions have extended the lifespan of disease-spreading insects like ticks and biting flies, posing a risk to cattle herds, a recent discovery of anaplasmosis near Woonsocket, South Dakota, highlights the urgent need to protect herds. Gene Luther, a researcher at University Products, emphasized the importance of intervention. “Anaplasmosis devastates cattle herds quickly and quietly,” he said. “Often, the disease spreads rapidly before ranchers are even aware.” Researchers with the company said transmission “primarily occurs through ticks, biting flies and contaminated equipment like shared vaccine or antibiotic needles. Producers have to implement effective preventive strategies early, with proper management and vaccination, to reduce the risk of anaplasmosis. Our vaccine is a well-tested tool.”

What producers need to know when considering alternative feedstuffs

The term “alternative feedstuffs” can mean a lot of different things, but in feeding cattle, it includes edibles not commonly found in the feed bunk. Kansas State University Research and Extension beef specialist Justin Waggoner uses soybean hay as an example. Cattle producers don’t normally feed soybean hay, because soybeans are usually harvested as grain, but with recent drought conditions producers have been utilizing this alternative, he said. “This category of alternative feedstuffs is really broad and all encompassing. Everything from cereal type breakfast products to chili pepper, and salsa waste that would come out of a salsa factory, and even nut hulls.” When looking for alternative feedstuffs, he added, it’s important to evaluate if there’s something that could be a concern in the product. He suggested producers interested in alternative feedstuffs reach out to their local extension agent to get in touch with a specialist or nutritionist who’s able to evaluate these products.

Senators urge action on drought in new farm bill

U.S. Senator Jerry Moran said the new farm bill must include investments in water programs to address climate change fueling periods of more frequent, severe and prolonged drought. Moran joined a bipartisan group of senators asking colleagues on the Senate Agriculture Committee to fight for aid reflecting damage to crop and livestock production in Kansas and other states tied to disruption of natural wet and dry periods. “Severe, long-term drought is devastating these rural areas,” the senators said in a statement. “These negative effects reverberate through the community, affecting not just individual producers, but the broader local economy and food system.” In all, 17 senators signed a letter requesting farm bill reforms related to drought. Once passed into law, a new farm bill would authorize hundreds of billions of dollars in funding to food aid, crop insurance and related programs, Kansas Reflector reports.