Dairy cattle confined and grazing on hay.

Iowa identifies second dairy with bird flu, expands testing

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Jared Strong

(Iowa Capital Dispatch) Iowa state agriculture officials will test dairy farms for bird flu if they are near a poultry flock that is infected by the disease, the Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship announced Friday.

The new surveillance measure is meant to help reveal the spread of highly pathogenic avian influenza in Iowa, which has been detected in a massive chicken flock, a turkey flock and two dairy farms in recent weeks in northwest Iowa.

PICT Animal - Guernsey Cattle

Guernsey Cattle. Courtesy FSA

Friday, IDALS confirmed the second dairy farm infection, in Sioux County. The dairy operator noticed symptoms of a potential infection and contacted the department, which helped facilitate testing, said Don McDowell, an IDALS spokesperson.

The newly announced surveillance testing will include dairies within 20 kilometers of an infected poultry site, McDowell said. That protocol is already in place for other poultry sites.

IDALS is not yet restricting the movement of cattle within the state, but it encourages dairies to boost their biosecurity measures, including by limiting visitors to the sites. The U.S. Department of Agriculture has said it is likely the virus has been transported between herds by people and equipment.

“This is going to take the entire agricultural community working together because we all have a stake in protecting the herds and flocks of Iowa,” Secretary of Agriculture Mike Naig said.

Naig has asked USDA to compensate farmers for lost revenue from cows and milk. He also wants federal help to track the movement of the virus in Iowa at infected sites and in wildlife.

Cows typically recover from infections within two weeks, but the virus is often fatal for poultry. Entire flocks are destroyed to prevent the virus’ spread.

“Because Iowa farmers produce 10 percent of the nation’s food supply, protecting the health of our livestock is one of our highest priorities,” Governor Kim Reynolds said Friday.

Reynolds has asked federal officials to accelerate the approval process for animal vaccines that could reduce the spread of viruses such as avian flu.

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