Ag Insider

Human case of HPAI reported


A dairy worker in Texas has tested positive for highly pathogenic avian influenza. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said the case is relatively mild with the only symptom being a case of pink eye. The patient was treated with flu medication and told to isolate. This is only the second person to be diagnosed with this subset of avian influenza, with the first case being in Colorado two years ago. This would be the first time HPAI jumped from birds to cattle to people. According to an agency news release, “This infection does not change the H5N1 bird flu human health risk assessment for the U.S. general public, which the CDC considers to be low.”

No impact to human health or the milk supply

After the U.S. Department of Agriculture confirmed the presence of HPAI in a small number of dairy herds, the National Milk Producers Federation executive vice president of communications and industry relations Alan Bjerga was quick to assure the dairy industry. “We’re not seeing disruptions in milk supply or an animal health crisis, but we’re keeping an eye on it because it’s something new,” Bjerga said.

No long-term impact on dairy cattle

The HPAI cases in Texas and Kansas dairy herds will not have a significant impact on milk prices. “If you look at the numbers, we look at this maybe impacting milk production by 1%-1.5% over some period of time,” said Mike North, principle, Ever.Ag. “There’s not going to be this big lightning bolt; it’s not going to be like the stories we heard about large chicken flocks with avian flu euthanized.” North, who is also a past president of the Dairy Business Association, said dairy cows may exhibit flu-like symptoms for two or three weeks. Once it’s done, production returns to normal. “Milk quality returns to normal and safety is never a problem through that entire period,” North said.

MN House ag committee update on HPAI

The Minnesota House agriculture committee heard an update on HPAI after the virus has infected dairy cattle, goats and one human. Minnesota Board of Animal Health executive director Dr. Brian Hoefs said their agency is working with other agencies and organizations to form protocols for mitigating risk to livestock and caretakers. Hoefs said those handling raw milk should wear personal protective equipment. “I grew up on a dairy farm,” Hoefs said. “We dipped a pitcher in the milk for breakfast every morning. Not a good idea in light of this information.” Pasteurized milk is safe to handle and consume.

Additional scrutiny for large dairy farms

A bill that triggers a full environmental impact statement for farms with more than 10,000 animal units was reviewed in the Minnesota House environment and natural resources committee. Minnesota Farmers Union president Gary Wertish testified in favor of this bill. “Our members do have questions about what a natural disaster, emerging animal disease, a human disease that affects workers or other disruptions would mean for such a large operation,” Wertish said. “I think more about the social and economic effects that are more fully addressed with an EIS.” Daryn McBeth represented the Minnesota Milk Producers Association, speaking against this bill. McBeth described the current environmental regulations as robust and a mandatory EIS would just add cost and time to any project. “To say to a dairy enterprise from another state or western Minnesota that has seen its share of dairy expansion in the last 20 years that you’re not welcome in Minnesota would be sending the wrong message at a time when our farmer-owned dairy processing plants are already struggling,” McBeth said. The bill was held over for possible inclusion in an omnibus later in the session.

Adjustments sought in DMC calculation

USDA’s Dairy Margin Coverage triggers a payment for participating farmers when the difference between the all-milk price and the average feed price falls below a certain level. DMC was triggered in 11 of the 12 months in 2023. Associated Milk Producers Inc. vice president of marketing Sarah Schmidt said the risk management program was working as intended. “That said, the calculation for that program uses a national milk price,” Schmidt said. “Because the vast majority of our milk goes to cheese and cheese is the low market price right now, our average milk price in the Midwest is not close to the national average milk price. Our dairy farmers are telling us DMC isn’t providing the support that they had typically come to expect.” DMC payments kick in when margins are at $9.50 per hundredweight or less. Due to increased costs, Schmidt said that the margin should increase to $10 cwt. AMPI would like to see changes to the DMC program when the farm bill is completed. Schmidt remains hopeful that a farm bill will pass this year, but her optimism is cooling with it being an election year.

Attorney general gains protections for dairy farm employees during litigation

The Minnesota Attorney General’s Office has reached a temporary injunction with Evergreen Acres Dairy in Paynesville. With this announcement, employees at five facilities in Stearns County and one in Redwood County will be paid while legal action continues. The Minnesota Attorney General’s Office sued the dairy farm in January for failing to pay workers and charging rent for poor quality housing.

Bongards releases earnings

Bongards reported 2023 earnings of $29.5 million on sales of $822 million. Patronage earnings of $19.7 million resulted in a 20% cash payment to members of 26 cents per hundredweight. In addition, Bongards will revolve the remaining half of the 2013 equity in the amount of $4 million. Checks will be made before Aug. 1.

Milk output increases

Milk production in the 24 major dairy states totaled 17.4 billion pounds in February. That’s up 2.4% from one year ago. In Minnesota, milk cow numbers dropped 7,000 head in the past year, but milk production rose 1.5%. South Dakota had the biggest increase in milk production, up 14.8%. That was helped by the addition of 19,000 cows to the state’s dairy herd.

Climate-Smart program pays eco-friendly farmers

The USDA is rewarding farmers for adopting climate-smart agricultural practices. At the Central Plains Dairy Expo in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, Minnesota Milk Producers Association CEO Lucas Sjostrom said Midwest dairy farms are eligible for these funds. “We have $50 million available for farmers in the Upper Midwest,” he said. Details for eligibility are being negotiated.

Alfalfa variety selection should not be ignored

Insects and diseases continue to evolve. According to Land O’Lakes Inc. alfalfa and forage specialist Jeff Jackson, seed treatments and new chemistries can help, but variety selection also has a role. “If you’re not paying attention to variety selection and finding the varieties that will work best in your soil type, it can be a pitfall to getting a stand established,” Jackson said.

WDE recognition announced

World Dairy Expo has announced its 2024 award winners. Jim Barmore, Marty Faldet and King Hickman of GPS Dairy Consulting LLC in Lakewood, Minnesota, are being recognized as the Industry People of the Year. Former Semex CEO Paul Larmer, of Guelph, Ontario, is being honored as the International Person of the Year. Larson Acres Inc., which milk 2,800 cows at Evansville, Wisconsin, is home to the Dairy Producers of the Year. The award ceremony will be Oct. 2.

Trivia challenge

The average retail price for a gallon of whole milk was $4.01 in 2023. That answers our last trivia question. For this week’s trivia, what are the official colors of FFA? We will have the answer in our next edition of Dairy Star.

Don Wick is owner/broadcaster for the Red River Farm Network of Grand Forks, North Dakota. Wick has been recognized as the National Farm Broadcaster of the Year and served as president of the National Association of Farm Broadcasting. Don and his wife, Kolleen, have two sons, Tony and Sam, and five grandchildren, Aiden, Piper, Adrienne, Aurora and Sterling.


No comments on this item Please log in to comment by clicking here