Weekly livestock news: January 23, 2023

The United States’ worst avian flu outbreak on record continues, with nearly 58 million birds dead since February

Nearly 58 million U.S. birds from commercial and backyard flocks—including more than 40 million egg-laying hens—have died since last February as the worst outbreak of avian influenza on record continues, according to the USDA. Experts say the virus has been difficult to contain because it appears to be more prevalent in wild birds now than in previous outbreaks. This development makes future infections more likely, with impacts on communities likely for months to come, NBC News reports.

Union Pacific delays put Foster Farms operations at risk


Millions of chickens went unfed as rail disruptions delayed corn shipments to a California poultry farm owned by Foster Farms, federal documents show. The company has said it’s had to pause some operations because of delays from Union Pacific Corp., the second-largest freight railroad in North America. The supply issues also forced the company to shut down a plant that processes raw corn into animal feed to sell, it said in the federal filings. The U.S. Surface Transportation Board on December 30 ordered Union Pacific to deliver more corn-laden trains to Foster Farms, Bloomberg reports.

Virginia animal caregivers say large-animal veterinarian shortage puts country’s food supply at risk

A shortage of large-animal veterinarians could put the U.S. food supply at risk, a recent report found, and Virginia veterinarians agree. Economics appear to be the driving force behind the shortage, since small-animal veterinarians often make double or triple those in farm animal medicine, the December report said. But lifestyle and safety challenges also present issues for these professionals. “I’ve only been practicing for a couple of years, but I have mentors and people who I know who have had multiple shoulder replacement surgeries, so it’s physically laborious,” Dr. Hannah Varnell, founder and CEO of Wellfarm Vets, told WFXR.

USDA seeks comments on proposed changes to animal disease traceability regulations

The USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service is proposing to amend animal disease traceability regulations and require electronic identification for interstate movement of certain cattle and bison. APHIS is also proposing to revise and clarify record requirements. According to the agency, the proposed changes “would strengthen the nation’s ability to quickly respond to significant animal disease outbreaks.” The proposed rule was published in the Federal Register last week, and members of the public can comment until March 22.

Oregon lawmakers propose lifting brucellosis vaccination requirement for beef producers

A bill in the Oregon legislature would lift a requirement for producers to vaccinate beef cows against brucellosis. While the disease is still present in bison and elk herds in the Greater Yellowstone Area, all 50 states as well as Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands are classified as brucellosis-free. The last detected case of the disease in Oregon livestock was about 25 years ago. Producers say the vaccination requirement adds cost burdens while lowering the value of unvaccinated cows, Capital Press reports.

The Netherlands’ push to reduce pollution from livestock farming could be a sign of what’s to come in the United States

A court ruling in 2019 that farmers in the Netherlands were breaking European environmental laws could have implications for countries around the world, including the United States, the world’s largest beef producer. Some scientists say the world needs action to reduce livestock rather than relying on voluntary pollution reduction or technological measures that may be unproven at scale. In the Netherlands, government policies like mandatory farm buyouts have met intense controversy, The Guardian reports.