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Bird Flu Hits Dairy Cattle

For what could be the first time, the Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza – also known as the “bird flu” – has hit dairy cattle, according to the USDA. It isn’t widespread enough to substantially limit the nation’s milk supply. But it’s yet another major challenge for some Texas cattle ranchers who already dealt with devastating wildfires that killed 7,000 head.

Kansas and New Mexico also have confirmed bird flu cases in dairy cattle, according to the USDA. The infections, believed to be from sick migratory birds, struck older dairy cows and caused decreased milk production and low appetite.

Infected dairy cattle lose up to 40% of their milk production until they recover from the symptoms that they suffered due to the virus. That can last 7-10 days.

Texas is one of the largest milk production states. The Texas Tribune explains the industry’s importance to the state’s agricultural economy. Texas has an estimated 625,000 cows.

Top Milk Production States

1.      California

2.      Wisconsin

3.      Idaho

4.      Texas

5.      New York


About 10% of the dairy herd was contaminated in the areas where bird flu had been detected, according to the USDA.

The USDA provided this explanation for why it believes that milk will remain safe to consume:

“At this stage, there is no concern about the safety of the commercial milk supply or that this circumstance poses a risk to consumer health. Dairies are required to send only milk from healthy animals into processing for human consumption; milk from impacted animals is being diverted or destroyed so that it does not enter the food supply. In addition, pasteurization has continually proven to inactivate bacteria and viruses, like influenza, in milk. Pasteurization is required for any milk entering interstate commerce.”

Dairy cattle can survive the bird flu. And, so far, they have not been shown to transmit the virus to other dairy cattle. If that doesn’t change, that makes dairy producers more fortunate than their counterparts in the poultry industry.

Producers have culled more than 60 million poultry to stop the bird flu from spreading. The current outbreak is the worst in U.S. history.

The virus was first detected in China in 1996 in domestic waterfowl, according to the National Emerging Special Pathogens Training & Education Center.


American Farmland Owner Hayfields mountains


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