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U.S. Bird Flu Outbreak Threatens Dairy Supply Chain, Economic Impact Looms

USA 11.06.2024
Source: The DairyNews
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The U.S. Department of Agriculture reports a significant outbreak of bird flu affecting at least 80 dairy herds across ten states, raising alarms over increased cow mortalities and potential widespread culling to prevent further spread. This situation threatens to impose economic strain throughout the agricultural sector and could trigger a supply shock in the dairy industry.
U.S. Bird Flu Outbreak Threatens Dairy Supply Chain, Economic Impact Looms
In South Dakota, a severe case at a 1,700-cow dairy involved euthanizing approximately two dozen cows due to non-recovery and secondary infections, according to Russ Daly, a professor at South Dakota State University. Similar measures were taken at a Michigan farm, where about 10% of 200 infected cows were culled, as reported by Phil Durst of Michigan State University Extension.

Colorado and Ohio have also seen significant impacts, with cows being culled due to failure to return to milk production and deaths from secondary infections, respectively. Despite the extensive impact, exact numbers of statewide cow mortalities remain unconfirmed.

In New Mexico, early culling activities decreased as farmers observed that most cows gradually recovered from the virus, stated Samantha Uhrig, the state’s veterinarian.

The bird flu crisis has complicated the logistics within the dairy supply chain. Last month, the USDA ruled that lactating dairy cattle could not be transported interstate, exacerbating delays, particularly affecting Southern dairy farms that raise calves from Northern states. Joe Armstrong, a professor at the University of Minnesota, emphasized the financial stakes involved, noting that movement restrictions could rapidly lead to space shortages due to the continuous nature of animal transfers in the industry.

Further complications are anticipated as the USDA expands testing for dairy cows, likely uncovering more infections and continuing to hinder interstate cattle movements. This disruption has been echoed by Rep. Gabe Vasquez (D-NM), who highlighted the slowdown in cattle transportation.

Meanwhile, dairy traders are closely monitoring the situation as milk futures in Chicago have surged more than 27% since early April. The ongoing culling and logistical challenges pose a looming crisis for the dairy industry, with potential ramifications extending to the beef sector if the virus spreads, potentially driving retail meat prices significantly higher amid historically low herd populations.