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Thursday, June 20, 2024

Iowa’s testing for bird flu in dairy herds more extensive than other states

Iowa’s testing for bird flu in dairy herds more extensive than other states

State Ag Secretary Mike Naig says Iowa officials are taking a different approach compared to other states when it comes to bird flu testing. When a poultry flock has been hit by the virus, the testing protocol has been that poultry operations within a 20 kilometer radius are tested.

“We decided that what we were going to do in Iowa was a little different. We needed to get our arms around: ‘Where is it? How many sites, how many farms are being affected?’ and so what we ordered was the testing of dairy farms in those circles,” Naig says, “so just like poultry in those circles, we’re going to test dairy.”

Results are expected soon and Naig says there could be a big bump in the number of bird flu cases confirmed on Iowa dairy farms.

“Don’t be surprised if you see that because other states aren’t doing this. We thought it was important. This is not just a dairy issue or a poultry issue. This is an agriculture issue. This is a farm issue and I want to commend our dairy producers,” Naig says. “They have been very cooperative. They’ve let the research teams get in contact with them because if we’re going to find these sites, let’s learn everything we can so that we don’t just talk about, ‘Hey, let’s increase your biosecurity.’ Let’s talk about specifically what you need to do.”

Teams of U.S.D.A. experts have been in the state analyzing each of the sites where bird flu has been confirmed among poultry or dairy cattle. “They ask the farmers questions: ‘Where were your animals? Have you been moving animals in? Do you share equipment? Where does the feed come from? Who works on the site?'” Naig says. “You know, connecting all the dots.”

Dairy farmers outside of the mandatory testing zones have contacted state officials to say they suspect cattle are infected with the virus. Dairy cows are quarantined while they’re sick, but are not euthanized.

“No other state’s doing what Iowa’s doing,” Naig says, “and I’m proud of our farmers and our farm community for stepping up.”

The strain of bird flu that’s been confirmed at eight dairy operations in northwest Iowa over the past few weeks is the same. Naig suspects bird flu is more widespread.

“I think this additional testing will show us that,” Naig says. “I think it’s also going to show us that there are some herds that have had it and are getting over it.”

The main hit to dairies where bird flu is detected is a drop in milk production, but Naig says some Iowa dairy cows have died after being diagnosed with bird flu.  “What you’ve got is maybe a secondary issue that develops. They might test positive (for bird flu), but they might develop pneumonia or something like that,” Naig says. “What we understand is that a minimal number of animals are developing mortality on these farms and that’s what we are hearing across the country.”

According to the U.S.D.A., it’s primarily older dairy cows that die after getting the virus. The National Veterinary Services Lab in Ames is processing the tests for highly pathogenic avian influenza in Iowa dairy herds.

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