Weekly livestock news: March 13, 2023

Biden administration considers poultry vaccination campaign as bird flu outbreak continues

Officials in the Biden administration announced they’re considering a mass vaccination campaign for poultry against avian influenza as the country suffers its biggest outbreak yet, which began early last year. USDA officials said they have begun testing potential poultry vaccines and initiated discussions with industry leaders about a large-scale bird flu vaccination program for poultry, which would be a first for the United States. Poultry trade associations are divided over the idea since it might lead to trade restrictions that could destroy the $6 billion poultry export industry. Scientists have been working to develop a vaccine and likely won’t have their first set of results ready to share until May, The New York Times reports.

New breed of pigs is PRRS-resistant, company says

The precision breeding company Acceligen has used gene editing and protein modifications to breed pigs that it says are naturally resistant to porcine reproductive and respiratory syndrome. The gene editing tools were developed by Kansas State University, and the PRRS resistance was proved effective through a collaboration with a University of Illinois professor, Successful Farming reports. Company officials say this development could be crucial to eliminate the disease from the livestock industry.

Penn State workshop series will focus on workforce development in animal agriculture

Penn State Extension is offering a free monthly workshop series from March to May focusing on workforce development in animal agriculture. According to Penn State, the series—which will take place online and in person—is designed for agricultural and livestock employers, educators and faculty, high school teachers, mentors or aspiring mentors, and agricultural human resource managers. Sessions will include best practices in mentoring, workforce development, and hiring and retention. The first session will take place March 22.

USDA awards $89 million to establish loan funding for independent meat processors

The USDA is investing another $89 million to finance the startup and expansion of independent meat processors in the United States, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced at the National Farmers Union convention. The agency is distributing the grants through the Meat and Poultry Intermediary Lending Program, in which grants go to intermediary lenders to fund independent meat processors. Nonprofit lenders in seven states will use the money to establish revolving loan funds. This is the second round of grants being distributed through the program, after the USDA awarded $75 million last fall, Feedstuffs reports.

FDA extends comment period on antimicrobial guidance update

The FDA is extending for an extra 60 days the comment period for revised draft Guidance for Industry #152, “Evaluating the safety of antimicrobial new animal drugs with regard to their microbiological effects on bacteria of human health concern.” The comment period will now close May 19. The agency in December issued a draft update to GFI #152, which it says “is a tool for assessing the risk of antimicrobial resistance (AMR) in people, which could result from the use of a medically important antimicrobial drug in food-producing animals.” For more information on the update, see the announcement from the FDA.

Zoetis receives $15.3 million grant to improve livestock care in sub-Saharan Africa

Zoetis has received a $15.3 million grant from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to help improve livestock care in sub-Saharan Africa. According to the announcement, the grant will help Zoetis expand its African Livestock Productivity and Health Advancement initiative to include aquaculture in addition to cattle, poultry and swine in an additional seven countries in the region. The funding “will accelerate access to veterinary products, services and diagnostic tools to increase the productivity of smallholder farms, with a particular focus on supporting female farmers,” according to the announcement in Feedstuffs.