Livestock News for week of September 2

Urgency for vaccine grows as ASF ravages China’s pigs; China to expand pork imports

Traditional vaccine development methods haven’t worked to combat the African swine fever virus, so scientists are trying to develop a different type of vaccine, this one using a weakened form of the virus rather than a dead virus as traditionally used. Scientists in China and the United States have reportedly been working on these vaccines, but extensive testing is necessary, with large numbers of subjects, before this type of vaccine could be distributed. That testing process takes two to five years, one expert said. The extensive testing is necessary to make sure vaccines made with weakened viruses don’t have unintended side effects, the Associated Press reports. Amid the continued ASF crisis, China’s commerce ministry announced the country will seek to boost pork imports and release frozen pork, beef and mutton from state reserves to increase the supply of meat in the market, Reuters reports.

Commentary: Rural America needs veterinarians; Congress can help

The country’s veterinary shortage is concerning, but the federal Veterinary Loan Repayment Program is helping address the issue, Dr. John Howe, a Grand Rapids mixed-animal practice owner, writes in The Hill. The program provides loan repayment to food animal and public health veterinarians who commit to practicing for at least three years in designated veterinary shortage areas. Data shows the program is successful, but it could be more effective, Howe says: “While we appreciate the generous funding for the VMLRP provided by Congress, demand for the program routinely exceeds capacity.” The solution, Howe says, is for Congress to pass the Veterinary Medicine Loan Repayment Program Enhancement Act, which would lift a 37% withholding tax applied to the awards and paid for by the U.S. Department of Agriculture out of the program’s appropriated funds. “When farmers and ranchers can’t access timely veterinary care, the consequences aren’t isolated to rural communities,” says Howe. “From lost dollars in our national economy to disease outbreaks that could threaten public health, veterinary shortages can impact every single American, no matter where they live.”

Farmers bear brunt of retaliatory tariffs

U.S. farms are bearing the brunt of retaliatory tariffs placed on their products, according to a new report from CoBank. The agriculture industry-focused bank analyzed 11 commodities in the fourth quarter of 2018 to determine who pays for the tariffs. They found that “U.S. producers — not the importing country or its consumers — paid most of these tariffs in all but two cases,” according to Feedstuffs. The commoditized nature of agricultural products, long shelf lives and the ease with which importers can identify substitutes are part of the reason importers have an advantage. In some cases, the United States can take on less of a share in the cost of retaliatory tariffs because of geographic and supply chain advantages or dominance in particular markets. With declining bargaining power, U.S. producers of most agricultural commodities will face pressure to absorb more of the costs of retaliatory tariffs in the future, according to CoBank.

The possible role of airborne transmission in 2015 bird flu

Airborne transmission likely played a role in spreading the 2015 highly pathogenic avian influenza strain that resulted in more than $3.2 billion in losses and infected 50 million birds, a new federal assessment shows. The assessment found there wasn’t one clear factor in the virus’s spread, but multiple routes likely contributed, including biosecurity gaps and airborne transmission. The analysis of 77 cases in Iowa found that the majority of positive cases might have received airborne virus carried by fine particulate matter from infected farms. While the airborne virus modelled in the analysis never exceeded the minimal infective doses for poultry, continual exposure may have increased airborne infection risks, Poultry World reports.

Track your horse’s temperature using an embedded thermometer

Scientists have developed technology to pair identification microchips with embedded thermometers that take a horse’s temperature, and send data and alerts to owners and veterinarians on their smartphones. “Rectal temperature-taking in horses is time-consuming and, to be frank, a dirty job, and it also leaves room for doubt about what’s normal for individual horses, since we usually only take their temperatures when we suspect a problem,” France-based Dr. Claire Scicluna told The Horse. She and her fellow researchers developed an app to work with a Biothermo microchip that reads both the horse’s identification number and its body temperature. A veterinarian injects the implant into the neck crest muscle like any other microchip. This site happens to be well–suited for body temperature monitoring, and since the implant inserts directly into the muscle itself, it reads body temperature, not superficial skin temperature.