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Minnesota state officials take steps to stop spread of bird flu in cows

Steps being taken to prevent spread of bird flu in Minnesota cows
Steps being taken to prevent spread of bird flu in Minnesota cows 02:13

LAKE LILLIAN, Minn. — Concerns over the spread of bird flu are carrying over to the dairy cow industry.

Earlier this spring, the H5N1 virus was detected in three dairy cow herds in Minnesota. The virus hasn't been fatal for cows, but it's caused state officials to take unprecedented steps to stop the spread.

"I had it last year. These barns in particular had bird flu. And it was a mess," said Jake Vlaminck. 

It's been a year since Vlaminck's Lake Lillian farm was hit by avian influenza. As he ramps up his poultry production, he's made one visible change.

"Ever since we put these lasers in we haven't had any issues," said Vlaminck. 

The laser keeps away ducks, geese and other migratory birds — the main carriers of H5N1. Vlaminck believes other turkey farmers will follow suit. That's because lawmakers recently approved funding for wild bird deterrents — like coyote and owl decoys, noise makers and lasers — which Vlaminck feels are the most effective.

"You can kind of see it up there. But it moves around and the best thing about it is because it's moving so much the birds don't get used to it," said Vlaminck, who is also president of the Minnesota Turkey Growers Association.

As poultry farmers take action, dairy farmers are facing new requirements after some cows in central and southern Minnesota tested positive.

Beginning Tuesday, all lactating dairy cows in Minnesota must have a negative H5N1 test result in order to attend exhibitions, county fairs, and even the State Fair. 

A veterinarian must collect the test results within seven days of a dairy cow attending an event. A positive test means a lactating cow would be under a 30-day quarantine.

"I've had this running non-stop now for the whole time its been installed. And it hasn't missed a beat," said Vlaminck. 

Vlaminck is encouraged by his new tool, and by the steps the state is taking to protect livestock.

"The more testing, the more information we can share between all the different sectors of agriculture, the better it's going to be for everybody to try and keep this H5N1 away from our livestock," said Vlaminck. 

Dairy cows that test negative can move through Minnesota for 10 days. Cows that have tested positive have been taken out of the milk and food supply and the USDA says milk is safe to drink due to pasteurization.

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