Milk Minute: It’s Greater Than Us

By Doug Chapin, MMPA Board Chairman

Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza (HPAI) was found in dairy herds in Texas in March, since then the situation has continued to evolve and reach other parts of the country. While we continue to learn more about the virus every day, our industry is collaborating to navigate the changing situation.

We know that HPAI is affecting not only dairy cattle but is harmful to the poultry industry. We need to do our part to prevent the spread of HPAI to not only be a good neighbor, but to assure our consumers of a safe, healthy food supply. We have to let our neighbors and consumers know that we are all hands-on-deck and doing everything we can to prevent HPAI and keep our food supply safe. Biosecurity is really the only tool we have without a vaccine and treatments to protect the dairy and poultry industries.

The focus of biosecurity is greater than us because the virus is more than our own farms, more than our own cooperative and more than our own industry. HPAI requires a collaborative effort between everyone to really think about how people, animals and equipment are moving on our farms and looking for ways to reduce risk in those areas.

On my own farm, we’ve put signs up to help direct traffic in ways that lessen our risk. We have separate farm entrances for employees, visitors and delivery trucks, and we’ve talked to our vendors to make sure they know about our updated traffic patterns. I’ve installed boot washes at all door entrances in the barn and only allow essential people into our cow facilities. We’ve targeted personnel that travel from farm to farm because that elevates the risk level. We work with our hoof trimmers, DHIA technicians, equipment maintenance personnel and others who visit multiple farms to ensure their clothes are clean, they’re either walking through the boot bath or wearing clean disposable booties, and we make sure they sign our visitor entry sign-in to have on record. Will these measures prove effective? I don’t know, but I hope so. All we can do right now is put biosecurity measures in place and think critically about risk areas on our operations.

Fortunately, as an industry we have resources to turn to that I helped develop as part of the National Dairy Farmers Assuring Responsible Management (FARM) program biosecurity taskforce. When we discussed biosecurity at the time of launching Everyday Biosecurity and Enhanced Biosecurity manuals, we were preparing for a Foot and Mouth Disease outbreak, fortunately, a lot of those same biosecurity practices apply today with HPAI. When developing the resources, we worked collaboratively with the U.S. Department of Agriculture and other agencies to create the most effective course of action that would allow our dairy farms a continuity of business. I encourage producers to check out the FARM program’s biosecurity resources and contact your field staff with help writing a biosecurity plan for your operation. It’s going to take all of us doing our part to prevent the spread of HPAI.

This article was originally published in the May/June 2024 issue of the Milk MessengerSubscribe »