USDA Launch Bulk Milk Testing to Mitigate Dairy Losses Amid Bird Flu Threat 

United States: US farmers can now collect large samples of milk from multiple cows, rather than testing each cow individually, before transporting it interstate. This change aims to streamline testing and reduce the spread of bird flu, according to a USDA statement released yesterday. 

More Details on the Program 

The USDA’s initiative reflects a commitment to combat bird flu and reduce losses for farmers, following incidents of bird flu in cows and dairy workers in late March. However, some veterinarians express concerns that bulk testing might not be sufficiently thorough, as reported by AOL.com. 

In late April, the USDA mandated that infected cows, including lactating ones, test negative for bird flu before interstate transportation. This measure aims to prevent the virus from spreading to other states. As of Wednesday, 2,492 pre-movement tests have been conducted, though the number of animals tested is not specified. 

USDA Launch Bulk Milk Testing to Mitigate Dairy Losses Amid Bird Flu Threat. Credit | AP
USDA Launch Bulk Milk Testing to Mitigate Dairy Losses Amid Bird Flu Threat. Credit | AP

Bulk Milk Testing Pilot Program 

The bulk milk testing program is intended to eliminate the need for individual pre-movement tests, providing a win-win solution for combating the virus and reducing its circulation, according to Eric Deeble, the USDA’s acting senior advisor for bird flu. 

An advisor said that farmers could begin signing up for it the week of June 3 in an announcement to reporters that divulged details of the program, which was previously broken by Reuters. 

USDA anticipates an increase in the number of positive herds testing due to the voluntary nature of the program and aims to encourage more widespread testing. 

Deeble added, “This program is not loosening restrictions,” as aol.com reported. 

Agriculture Officials’ Response 

Agriculture officials from six states are reviewing USDA’s plan for the program. The new virus strain has been confirmed in cattle across nine states. The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) estimates that up to 20 percent of the US milk supply shows signs of the virus, with an imminent risk of further spread. 

According to the International Dairy Foods Association, “Once it has support and participation from farms, the USDA program could help reduce the threat of H5N1 in dairy herds, further mitigate risk among farm workers, and continue to protect our nation’s commercial milk supply,” as Reuters reported.