Weekly livestock news: March 25, 2024

Ranchers in Texas struggle with burned cattle, lack of feed after fires

The state of Texas has officially reported 7,350 animals killed in the Smokehouse Creek fire that tore across a million acres of the Texas panhandle grasslands. But officials in the counties hit hardest by the fire believe the death toll could be much higher, WMAR reports. Thousands of animals either died from the flames or had to be euthanized because of severe injuries. There are more cattle than people in this part of Texas, and other than fossil fuels, cattle underpin this economy. Ranch owner Donald Hill described calves with singed skin and mother cows with burned udders. “They kick the calves off, and we’ve lost a lot of calves that way,” he said. The newborn calves can’t get vital colostrum, which helps their immune system. Without it, Hill notes, the calves may quickly die. Many already have. Additionally, the Texas A&M Forest Service says more than 1 million acres of grassland vital to Texas cattle raising have been burned.

Patient receives kidney from genetically modified pig

Surgeons in Boston have transplanted a kidney from a genetically engineered pig into an ailing 62-year-old man, the first procedure of its kind, The New York Times reports. If successful, the breakthrough offers hope to hundreds of thousands of Americans whose kidneys have failed. The kidney began producing urine shortly after the surgery and the patient’s condition continues to improve, according to physicians at Massachusetts General Hospital. He is already walking the halls of the hospital and may be discharged soon. The patient is a Black man, and the procedure may have special significance for Black patients, who suffer high rates of end-stage kidney disease. A new source of kidneys “could solve an intractable problem in the field—the inadequate access of minority patients to kidney transplants,” said Dr. Winfred Williams, associate chief of the nephrology division at Mass General and the patient’s primary kidney doctor.

New USDA rules aim to make contracts fairer for livestock producers

The USDA is finalizing a series of rules under the Packers and Stockyards Act as part of President Joe Biden’s Executive Order on Promoting Competition in America’s economy. Proponents say it will increase fairness for livestock and poultry producers across the country. “One thing that we have documented in past reports is the tendency of integrators to present the terms and the potential benefits of the contracts they’re offering during the recruitment process with growers in what we would assess to be deceptive terms,” said Aaron Johnson, policy co-director for the Rural Advancement Foundation International-USA. In addition to misleading contract terms, he noted some farmers were recruited within months of a plant being closed. With the new rule, such issues may be prevented. Additionally, the rule should enable poultry farmers to get a more accurate estimate of the income they will receive with a contract, Public News Service reports.

Feral pigs cause problems in Connecticut

Feral pigs, a longtime issue in Texas, are now causing problems in some parts of Connecticut, leaving state lawmakers scrambling for solutions. The legislature’s environmental committee recently heard testimony on how much trouble roaming swine can cause. State Senator Heather Somers said bands of pigs are roaming her eastern Connecticut district, causing tens of thousands of dollars in damages to crops and lawns. She said the pigs are also biting and chasing farmers. According to Somers, pigs are escaping from farms and having offspring in the wild, and there isn’t a clear way to legally deal with the problem. She’s advocating for a bill that would create a task force to study solutions, Connecticut Public Radio reports.

WVA launches ‘essential medicines’ list for food-producing animals

The World Veterinary Association has unveiled a new global essential veterinary medicines list for food-producing animals, Vet Times reports. The group collaborated with the global welfare organization Brooke to create the list, which they say is the first of its kind and will help clinicians and policymakers take appropriate steps for their areas. The initiative will be formally launched at a webinar on March 26, and work on further phases of the project is already underway. The initial phase of the project has focused on equids, large ruminants, pigs, goats and sheep. Work on a second stage will concentrate on poultry and rabbits, while the third phase will look at aquaculture and bees. Olatunji Nasir, who chairs the WVA’s pharmaceutical stewardship working group, said the list would facilitate “better choices of medicines, biologics and vaccines supply, fitting to local needs.”

Understanding mycoplasma pneumonia

Beef cattle can experience respiratory disease that may start as a virus and turn into bacterial pneumonia, according to experts at Kansas State University’s Beef Cattle Institute. Mycoplasma pneumonia, however, may require a different treatment protocol than other forms of respiratory disease, they say. “Mycoplasma pneumonia is atypical because it is a smaller bacterium that doesn’t have a cell wall and it is more contagious than some of the other respiratory illnesses,” said K-State veterinarian Brad White. K-State veterinarian Brian Lubbers added: “Because it is an atypical bacterium, some of the antibiotics that we would use to treat bovine respiratory disease just simply won’t work against mycoplasma. The diagnostic test for this bacterium is different and it doesn’t always show on a routine bacterial culture, so it is important to work with the veterinarian to get the right diagnosis and treatment protocol.”