Avian Influenza Detected in U.S. Dairy Cows

March 25, 2024
Two dairy cattle herds each in Texas and Kansas show signs of bird flu, but no danger seen to the milk supply or even the cows.

Today (March 25) USDA confirmed highly pathogenic avian influenza in two dairy cattle herds in Texas and two herds in Kansas. That’s bird flu in cows. There’s no threat to human health, and milk and dairy products remain safe to consume. Even the cows are mildly affected, most recovering within two to three weeks.

We’ve carried stories in recent weeks about influenza among chicken and turkey flocks, but this is apparently the first occurrence of it in another species of farm animal.

“In keeping with the federal Grade A Pasteurized Milk Ordinance, milk from sick cows must be collected separately and is not allowed to enter the food supply chain,” read a statement from four dairy associations. “This means affected dairy cows are segregated, as is normal practice with any animal health concern, and their milk does not enter the food supply.”

The associations – National Milk Producers Federation, International Dairy Foods Association, U.S. Dairy Export Council and Dairy Management Inc. – did not specify how many cows had been affected.

“Pasteurization kills harmful microbes and pathogens in milk, including the influenza virus,” they said. “Also, routine testing and well-established protocols for U.S. dairy will continue to ensure that only safe milk enters the food supply.”

Information related to an illness affecting dairy cows in several states began to circulate over the past two weeks. Dairy producers with affected cows are reporting a rapid onset illness in herds, specifically among older, lactating cows. Signs include:

  • Decreased herd level milk production
  • Acute sudden drop in production
  • Decrease in feed consumption
  • Abnormal feces and some fever
  • Older cows may be more likely to be severely impacted than younger cows

USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service worked with state veterinary authorities as well as federal partners including the FDA to identify the cause and respond. Dairy farmers have been directed to implement enhanced biosecurity protocols on their farms, limiting the amount of traffic into and out of their properties and restricting visits to employees and essential personnel.

According to dairy farmers and veterinarians reporting on affected herds, most affected cows recover within two to three weeks.

About the Author

Dave Fusaro | Editor in Chief

Dave Fusaro has served as editor in chief of Food Processing magazine since 2003. Dave has 30 years experience in food & beverage industry journalism and has won several national ASBPE writing awards for his Food Processing stories. Dave has been interviewed on CNN, quoted in national newspapers and he authored a 200-page market research report on the milk industry. Formerly an award-winning newspaper reporter who specialized in business writing, he holds a BA in journalism from Marquette University. Prior to joining Food Processing, Dave was Editor-In-Chief of Dairy Foods and was Managing Editor of Prepared Foods.

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