Ag News

Dairy cows in five states infected with HPAI

by Compiled by Georgia Farm Bureau

Posted on Mar 29, 2024 at 3:27 AM

As of April 3, dairy herds in Texas (7), Kansas (2), Michigan (1) New Mexico (1) and Idaho (1) have been confirmed to have cattle infected with Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza (HPAI) the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) reported April 3. 

USDA’s National Veterinary Services Laboratories (NVSL) is currently performing comfirmatory tests on test samples taken from cattle in Ohio and from more cattle in Kansas, New Mexico and Texas.  USDA has created a webpage with reecent announcements pertaining to HPAI detections in livestock  along with biosecurity information and other resources. USDA will daily update the page by 4 p.m. ET with any new confirmed detections.

Wild migratory birds are believed to be the source of avian flu infections in the herds in Texas, Kansas and New Mexico. The Michigan dairy farm with infected cattle had recently received cows from Texas before HPAI was detected in the state. USDA’s National Veterinary Services Laboratories (NVSL) has confirmed that the strain of HPAI  found in the Michigan herd is very similar to the strain initially confirmed on Texas and Kansas dairies (H5N1, Eurasian lineage goose)  on March 25. 

Cows infected with HPAI are exhibiting symptoms that include: a significant decrease in milk production (10-30 lbs./cow), low appetite, and fever, according to the USDA. The affected cattle are being isolated from the healthy cows in their herds and most have recovered with little to no deaths, the USDA reported on March 29.


While the USDA, FDA and CDC continue to work with state veterinary and public health officials to investigate any reports of sick cattle, the USDA and Food & Drug Administration (FDA) continue to assure the public that the commercial milk supply is safe and that there is no cause for concern that this circumstance poses a risk to consumer health.

Federal and state food laws require dairy farms to send only milk from healthy animals into processing for human consumption; milk from the sick animals is being diverted or destroyed so that it does not enter the food supply. In addition, pasteurization has continually proven to inactivate bacteria and viruses, like influenza, in milk. Pasteurization is required for any milk entering interstate commerce.

FDA has a longstanding position that unpasteurized, raw milk can harbor dangerous microorganisms  that can pose serious health risks to consumers.

As of April 2, milk loss resulting from the sick cows is too small to have a major  impact on the U.S. dairy supply, so there should be no impact on the price of milk or other dairy products, the USDA reports.

The Meat Institute says properly prepared beef is safe to eat and is not a food safety risk to humans.

“According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and USDA food safety experts, properly prepared beef is safe to eat,” said Meat Institute President and CEO Julie Anna Potts. “HPAI cannot be transmitted to humans by eating meat or poultry products. The Meat Institute and its member companies will continue to be vigilant to aid in the efforts to stop the spread of the disease among animals in food production.”

On April 1, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) reported that a person in Texas has tested positive for HPAI A(H5N1) virus; the CDC also stated in its announcement that this infection does not change the A(H5N1) bird flu human health risk assessment for the U.S. general public, which CDC considers to be low.

This person had exposure to dairy cattle in Texas presumed to be infected with HPAI A(H5N1) viruses. The patient reported eye redness (consistent with conjunctivitis), as their only symptom, and is recovering. The patient was told to isolate and is being treated with an antiviral drug for flu. People with close or prolonged, unprotected exposures to infected birds or other animals (including livestock), or to environments contaminated by infected birds or other animals, are at greater risk of infection. CDC has interim recommendations for prevention, monitoring, and public health investigations of HPAI A(H5N1) viruses.


The National Dairy FARM Program (NDFP) offers several valuable biosecurity resources to provide dairy farmers with tools to keep their cattle and dairy businesses safe, including:

Everyday Biosecurity Reference Manual

Enhanced Biosecurity Prep Guide

Herd Health Plan Protocol Template – Biosecurity

Animal Movement Log

People Entry Log

If milk from cows showing symptoms of illness or exposed to those infected with avian influenza, is intended to be used to feed calves or other animals, FDA strongly encourages that it be pasteurized or otherwise heat treated to kill harmful bacteria or viruses, such as influenza, before feeding to calves. Food safety information from FDA, including information about the sale and consumption of raw milk, can be found here

While HPAI has not been detected in beef cattle, the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association is encouraging cattle producers to implement enhanced biosecurity measures on their farms and ranches to help protect their herds. Information on animal health protocols and developing an effective biosecurity plan can be found at Producers can also visit for resources on how to manage wildlife to limit exposure to HPAI.


According to the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA), this is the first time that HPAI has been identified affecting dairy cattle and only the second time HPAI has been detected in a ruminant. Earlier in March, the H5N1 strain of HPAI was found in goats in Minnesota on a small farm where backyard poultry first tested positive.

“The first detection of HPAI in dairy cattle in Texas and Kansas underscores the importance of adherence to biosecurity measures, vigilance in monitoring for disease, and immediately involving your veterinarian when something seems ‘off’,” said AVMA President Rena Carlson. “A complete evaluation, including the collection and submission of laboratory samples and reporting to state animal health officials when appropriate, and in a timely fashion, are incredibly important. The AVMA is committed to supporting veterinarians with the latest information and guidance to protect the health and safety of animals under their care.”

For the initial Texas and Kansas dairies whose herds were exhibiting symptoms on March 25,  on average about ten percent of each affected herd appears to be impacted, with little to no associated mortality reported among the cows.

“Unlike affected poultry, I foresee there will be no need to depopulate dairy herds,” Texas Commissioner of Agriculture Sid Miller said. “Cattle are expected to fully recover. The Texas Department of Agriculture is committed to providing unwavering support to our dairy industry.”

Milk loss resulting from symptomatic cattle to date is too limited to have a major impact on supply and there should be no impact on the price of milk or other dairy products.

Georgia Agriculture Commissioner Tyler Harper said no cattle in Georgia had been affected as of March 26.

“I want to reassure all Georgians that the situation in Texas has in no way impacted the safety of milk products available in Georgia and, at this time, no cattle in our state have been impacted,” Harper said. “Georgians can and should feel confident that the milk products in their local grocery store are safe and wholesome, and this situation does not represent a threat to public health at present.”

Unpasteurized, clinical samples of milk from sick cattle collected from two dairy farms in Kansas and one in Texas, as well as an oropharyngeal swab from another dairy in Texas, tested positive for HPAI. Additional testing was initiated on March 22 because farms have also reported finding deceased wild birds on their properties. Based on findings from Texas, the detections appear to have been introduced by wild birds. Initial testing by the National Veterinary Services Laboratories has not found changes to the virus that would make it more transmissible to humans, which would indicate that the current risk to the public remains low.

The USDA indicated that federal agencies are working with state and industry partners to encourage farmers and veterinarians to report cattle illnesses quickly so potential additional cases can be monitored and their impact to farmers, consumers and other animals can be minimized. For the dairies whose herds are exhibiting symptoms, on average about ten percent of each affected herd appears to be impacted, with little to no associated mortality reported among the animals. Milk loss resulting from symptomatic cattle to date is too limited to have a major impact on supply and there should be no impact on the price of milk or other dairy products.

Federal and state agencies are conducting additional testing for HPAI, as well as viral genome sequencing, to better understand the situation, including characterization of the HPAI strain or strains associated with these detections.

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