May 2007
From the State Vet's Office

Cleaning out the Cupboard

by Dr. Tony Frazier

Occasionally there are several things that need to be reported on, but do not call for a full article. This month I want to cover some of those topics and clean out the cupboard.

Avian Influenza Testing

If you frequent flea markets where poultry is sold or traded, you may notice some of our field staff in disposable coveralls and boot covers there testing chickens. This is nothing to cause alarm or to send a message that we suspect disease at that market. This is simply part of the Avian Influenza surveillance program in Alabama. Additionally, we would remind anyone who owns "backyard poultry" to contact Dana Bennett, our director of poultry, if you have birds in your flock that become sick or begin dying.

Pet Food Recall

At the time I am writing this article, there is still on-going testing and investigations into the cause of deaths in the dogs and cats that were linked to eating the recalled brands of pet food that began back in mid-March. And the recall continues to expand as other companies include products that could contain tainted wheat gluten. There were early findings by a New York State laboratory of aminopterin, a type of rat poison that is illegal in the United States. A week later, FDA tests revealed the presence of melamine, a chemical compound used in making plastics. If you have tried to keep up with information about the recall, the reports have occasionally varied and may have been difficult to follow.

Here is some simple advice anytime there is a recall: 1) Stop using the product immediately, even if you have been using it previously with no apparent adverse affects, and take any unused product back to where it came from and get a documented refund. 2) If your pet gets sick, seek immediate veterinary attention. 3) Seek information from credible sources, such as your local veterinarian, the company website and, of course, press releases from the Alabama Department of Agriculture and Industries.

This is an extremely sad situation for those whose pets have been affected and we hope this will prompt further firewalls to be put in place that will prevent such occurrences in the future. In the meantime, the Alabama Department of Agriculture Food and Drug Consumer Safety Specialists continue to monitor the effectiveness of the recall and our laboratories have been available to assist private practicing veterinarians in diagnosing pet diseases.

West Nile and Other Mosquito-borne Diseases

I really hope it is raining when you are reading this, because it has really been dry lately. However, the combination of standing water and warm weather brings the mosquitoes back from wherever it is that they go on vacation. That means that your horses should be vaccinated for West Nile virus, as well as Eastern Equine Encephalitis virus. Spring is also the ideal time to vaccinate for other equine diseases. We suggest that you develop a preventive medicine program with your veterinarian. It is tragic to learn that someone lost a horse to a disease that was preventable by vaccination.

Late Spring/Early Summer Cattle Management

As I just mentioned, I hope it is raining when you are reading this, but just in case it is still dry, early weaning of calves may be something to consider this year. Even though you may not make as much off the sale of your calves, the long-term health benefits to the dam will pay dividends down the road. This summer may also be time to cull old or problem cows before another winter gets here.

Premises Registration

Confused about the direction of animal identification? If you attended any of the early educational ID meetings, you heard us and others pounding on the podium encouraging you to register your premises because the plan was for it to become mandatory in the foreseeable future. Well, if you haven’t been in a foreign country for the last few months, you have likely heard that USDA has said that the National Animal Identification System is and will always be voluntary. We in Alabama will continue to encourage premises registration because of the advantage it would give us in the event of a foreign animal disease outbreak. A premises registration system that has the majority of the livestock-associated premises in a database will give us a tremendous head start in responding to the disease. If you have questions about premises registration, please do not hesitate to contact us at 334-240-7253.

Chronic Wasting Disease Monitoring Plans

We are presently working to develop a State Chronic Wasting Disease Monitoring Plan. Before long we should be able to offer a plan to "Farmed Cervid" owners that will be consistent with the plan being considered as a model by the USDA. We will work closely with USDA and the state wildlife folks to present a plan that accomplishes our surveillance goals, and at the same time, is manageable and workable for the producer. Stay tuned!