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USDA launches bulk milk testing program for H5N1

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) has launched a Voluntary H5N1 Dairy Herd Status Pilot Program, which provides alternative testing and movement options to the federal order issued on April 25.

Milk Tank
Miriristic | BigStock.com

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) has launched a Voluntary H5N1 Dairy Herd Status Pilot Program, which provides alternative testing and movement options to the federal order issued on April 25 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 consecutive weeks, 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 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 required under the federal order. Producers must also comply with continued regular weekly monitoring and testing of the herd for H5N1.

APHIS is 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 the week of June 3 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 federal order. 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.

As additional testing measures take place, USDA anticipates it will see an increase in testing and positive test results, which will add to its 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.

 

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