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Farm News & Views for the week of May 6, 2024

H5N1 bird flu continues to be in the headlines in agricultural publications. Dr. Rosemary Sifford, Chief Veterinary Officer of the United States and Deputy Administrator of the Veterinary Services Program at the USDA stated that the “primary vector” for transmitting the H5N1 virus from cow to cow in dairy herds seems to be milk from an infected animal, which can be passed along as the milking equipment is shifted between cows in the milking parlor. A second round of high-precision tests, involving over 200 retail samples of milk and dairy products, showed that “pasteurization is effective for inactivating” the virus. The samples included sour cream and cottage cheese. Dr. Demetre Daskalakis , Director of the Center for Disease Control pointed out that there have been no signs of an increase in flu or bird flu-like illness, and he considers that the current risk to human health is low, The FDA also tested infant and toddler formula and found those products to be free of the virus and viral fragments. The USDA was considering whether to offer compensation to dairy farmers for cooperating in the investigation of the disease and for adopting stronger bio security safeguards.

As we’ve moved into May, pastures and hay fields are greening up and weeds are poised to compete with the desirable grasses and legumes that we want to grow for hay and forage. At this time of the year, farmers and landowners need to begin scouting for the undesirable plants and determining how to control them. To provide information about weed control, the 2024 Land Management Workshop series Weed Management Workshop is offered on Friday, May 10th at Fozzie’s Farm, located at 19760 Road W, Lewis, Colorado. Gus Westerman, CSU Extension-Dolores County Director will help workshop participants to identify problem weeds, understand their life cycles, and to determine how to manage them through cultural control, integrated pest management or the use of herbicides. Westerman will show participants how to calibrate pesticide application equipment so that they can accurately and safely apply herbicides when necessary. The cost of the workshop is $10, and there is a link for registration is here:

Last week, the U.S. Interior Department announced that the agency will install solar panels above irrigation canals in California, Oregon and Utah, using $19 million from a congressional spending bill. The planned projects include a $15 million pilot with the University of California, Merced to deploy up to three floating solar technologies in the Delta-Mendota Canal to assess the viability, costs and benefits of floating photovoltaic units, according to the Bureau of Reclamation. The agency will also spend over two and a half million dollars for similar panels over the Main Canal of the Deschutes Project in Central Oregon and $1.5 million for panels above the Layton Canal in northern Utah.

The USDA had some good news for consumers last week. U.S. cheese remains the least expensive in the world, and Mexico has been a bright spot for U.S. exports. February dairy product exports totaled over 500 million pounds, that’s up 5.5% from 2023, and it’s the first time that February shipments have exceeded 500 million pounds,. However, domestic cheese demand has been more lackluster, while butter demand has been robust, with the market hitting an all-time high for April at $2.97 per pound.

Author A. A. Milne wrote, “Weeds are flowers, too, once you get to know them.”

Bob has been an agricultural educator and farm and ranch management consultant for over 40 years in southwest Colorado. He writes about agricultural issues from his farm near Cortez, and has helped to produce farm reports on KSJD for more than a dozen years.