dairy producers

USDA Program for Dairy Producers Amid H5N1

DanAvian Influenza (Bird Flu), Cattle, Dairy & Livestock, Dairy and Livestock, This Land of Ours

USDA announces a program to help dairy producers during the outbreak of the H5N1 virus. That’s coming up on This Land of Ours.

dairy producers
Woman shopping milk in grocery store
By Sergey Ryzhov/Shutterstock image

Producers in participating states can soon enroll in a pilot program connected to continuing response to the HVN1 virus in dairy cows. Rod Bain has more.

From the USDA:

Continuing to build on the efforts to contain H5N1, APHIS is standing up a Voluntary H5N1 Dairy Herd Status Pilot Program, which provides alternative testing and movement options to the Federal Order to increase USDA’s monitoring capabilities to mitigate the spread of H5N1. The Voluntary H5N1 Dairy Herd Status Pilot Program aims to create additional testing options for producers with herds that have tested negative for three weeks in a row, further reduce H5N1 virus dissemination, provide for further opportunities to test herds that are not known to be affected with H5N1, increase surveillance and expand our knowledge of the disease, and support an overall national program to reduce the risk of H5N1 in dairy herds.

The main benefit for farmers who choose to enroll in the Voluntary H5N1 Dairy Herd Status Pilot Program is that once they can demonstrate their herds are free of H5N1 with results from a National Animal Health Laboratory Network (NAHLN) facility, they will then need to conduct weekly tests on bulk milk from that herd to confirm that status and will be able to ship their cows at the time they prefer and without testing individual animals.

Dairy producers from States enrolled in the first phase of this program who choose to enroll their herds and who test negative for H5N1 for three consecutive weeks using on-farm bulk tank milk samples or similar representative milk samples tested at a NAHLN laboratory will be able to move animals without additional pre-movement testing currently required under the Federal Order. Producers must also comply with continued regular weekly monitoring and testing of the herd for H5N1.

Selecting States to Participate

APHIS is currently working with state animal health officials to identify states to participate in a pilot phase of the program. Producers from states participating in this pilot can start enrolling in the Voluntary H5N1 Dairy Herd Status Pilot Program on the week of June 3, 2024, by contacting their APHIS Area Veterinarian in Charge or State Veterinarian and signing a Herd Monitoring Plan agreement. USDA strongly encourages dairy producers to enroll in this new program. Beyond the benefits for their own operations, increased producer participation may help USDA to establish state and/or regional disease-free statuses that could further ease compliance with the current Federal Order. Those herds not enrolled in the pilot program will continue to follow the interstate testing and movement requirements published in the Federal Order. More specific guidance on the new program, including how to enroll and how to obtain and maintain a herd status, will be made available on the APHIS website in the coming days.

As additional testing measures take place, USDA anticipates that it will see an increase in testing and positive test results, which will add to our knowledge of the disease and how it may spread between herds. At the same time, this pilot program will help to gather additional information on how producers with affected herds can document elimination of the virus on their operations and steps they can take to maintain an H5N1 virus-free herd.

Mitigation Efforts Continue

This new investment in risk mitigation augments the previously announced Federal Order on pre-movement testing of lactating dairy cattle, announced on April 24, as well as the tools to support biosecurity activities, announced on May 10, and the Emergency Assistance for Livestock, Honey Bees, and Farm-raised Fish Program funding availability, announced on May 23.

As USDA continues to take steps to protect the health of livestock, the Department continues to work closely with federal partners at the CDC on protecting the health of people and FDA on protecting the safety of the food supply. The U.S. government remains committed to addressing this situation with urgency.

To learn more about USDA’s response to H5N1 in dairy cattle, visit www.aphis.usda.gov/livestock-poultry-disease/avian/avian-influenza/hpai-detections/livestock.

Sabrina Halvorson
National Correspondent / AgNet Media, Inc.

Sabrina Halvorson is an award-winning journalist, broadcaster, and public speaker who specializes in agriculture. She primarily reports on legislative issues and hosts The AgNet News Hour and The AgNet Weekly podcast. Sabrina is a native of California’s agriculture-rich Central Valley.