The Van Trump Report

IMPORTANT – NEW Animal Health Situation Developing in Some US Dairy Cattle 

There is a developing health story happening with US Dairy Cattle. From what I understand, some dairy’s are starting to report sick cattle. Symptoms seem to be a fever, feed intake down -20% to -30%, and a drop in milk production. It sounds like the younger cattle aren’t being impacted as much as the older dairy cows.

Texas A & M’s Veterinary Diagnostic Lab is reporting that clinical signs include decreased herd level milk production; acute sudden drop in production with some severely impacted cows experiencing thicker, concentrated, colostrum like milk; decrease in feed consumption with a simultaneous drop in rumen motility; abnormal tacky or loose feces, and some fever. 

There are reports that some of the cattle bounce back and return to normal milk output after being sick, but others aren’t coming back fully, and some older cows aren’t coming back much at all. Some dairies are said to be culling cows who have been infected but their milk production does not return to normal. It will be interesting to see what the USDA and others eventually say is best-of-practice for infected cows whose milk production doesn’t return after they appear to be over the ailment.  

The cause of the mystery ailment is currently under investigation by Texas A & M University, Texas Animal Health, and the state veterinarian. Some in the industry have cited a common ailment, winter dysentery, as the likely disease, but tests have been negative. Others are proposing a potential toxin exposure, or another theory is that cows have been infected with a bacterial respiratory disease.

I heard some rumors and rumblings earlier this week about a possible health situation in the dairies to the south, but I am now starting to hear from more producers who say it is real and worth paying close attention. At the moment, and from what I am hearing, the health concerns are currently isolated to dairy cattle. I’m just wondering if we are not seeing or detecting the symptoms early enough on the live cattle side, because we aren’t seeing the easy and highly noticeable drop in milk production. I suspect if this ailment or virus is being carried around by birds or somehow is airborne it could eventually get into the live cattle herd. Keep in mind, I am NOT a veterinarian or any type of animal health expert. I am just a trader and investor trying to put together the pieces of the puzzle like everyone else. Stay tuned…    

You can read a letter from the Texas Animal Health Commission (TAHC) on the “animal health situation” HERE 

The most recent USDA data I have seen showed NASS estimating the number of US dairy cows in January at 9.325 million head, -23,000 fewer head than the previous month and -76,000 fewer head than January 2023. The milk per cow estimate for January 2024 was 2,047 pounds, -7 pounds per cow less than in January 2023. 

On January 1, 2024, the number of dairy heifers over 500 pounds was 4.059 million head, the lowest inventory since 2004 and down -0.4% from last year. Meanwhile, the number of heifers expected to calve in 2024 was only 2.593 million, down -1.1% from last year and the lowest since USDA started tracking that category in 2001 (Figure 2). This is well below the average of 3.04 million head seen between 2015 and 2020.

As a percent of the cow herd, the number of heifers calving this year is only 28%, also the lowest on record (Figure 3). For farms that want to expand in 2024, the lack of replacement heifers and the high cost for those that are available are limiting factors. (Source: Texas A&M, Hoards Dairyman, Wiki) You can see the latest USDA Dairy Report HERE

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