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Birds, Bovines and the Flu

by Bev Berens

Published: Friday, April 19, 2024

Telling Your Story

The poultry industry has been dealing with highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) for several years. The losses are staggering if it's your farm that must depopulate.

Now cattle producers will have the opportunity to grapple with the disease as it has been detected in herds in Texas, New Mexico, Idaho, Kansas, Ohio and, recently, two herds in Michigan.

While not deadly to cattle, the residual losses from decreased production, increased treatment costs and biosecurity measures are present.

Biosecurity. Biosecurity. Biosecurity. Nobody wants or needs to add to risks for animal health, and our own, given that a farm worker in one of the Southern states has also tested positive. Stay vigilant and take preventative biosecurity steps.

The American Assn. of Bovine Practitioners declares that they will reference this emerging cattle disease as Bovine Influenza A Virus (BIAV). Their press releases say the infection in cattle is different from the highly pathogenic avian influenza and referencing it as BIAV is a more accurate depiction. AABP's executive director, Fred Gingrich, DVM and President Michael Capel, DVM, are urging other organizations, state animal health officials, diagnostic labs and federal agencies to use the BIAV name "to be consistent with our message and better distinguish the disease syndrome in cattle from the pathogenesis in birds." The distinction would be important to help consumers understand the difference between the two strains and give assurance of the safety and availability of the beef and dairy product supply.

The USDA and MDARD state that they will continue to refer to the cattle strain as HPAI, or the highly pathogenic avian influenza.

Experts say the disease is carried and spread only by migrating waterfowl and not returning songbirds.

On a personal level, my worry meter has inched up the barometer. There is a low spot on our property that becomes a pond in the spring, and it is home to some migrating geese and duck pairs. It's not far from the chicken coop, and only a little further from the cattle lot. The past few years HIAP season sent grocery store egg prices into orbit, and the supply was short. It was a boon for my little backyard-hen-flock-turned-accidental-cash-cow. My cash cow now sits a little too close for comfort to the real cash cows on the farm.

So, we all watch and wait this season out, do what we can to avoid it, and pray for the best. I hope the region's poultry flocks and cattle herds are protected, and we are all spared from the burden of huge financial losses. This, too, shall pass.

Bev Berens is a freelance writer and empty nester from Vestaburg, Mich. She can be contacted at

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