May 24, 2015

State lifts bird flu quarantine in Juneau County

File photo: DACTP

File photo: DACTP

State agriculture officials have lifted a bird flu quarantine in Juneau County, which was put in place after the virus was found in a backyard flock.

The Department of Agriculture, Trade, and Consumer Protection says no new cases of the H5N2 avian influenza have been found in the six mile quarantine zone since the virus first turned up in mid-April. The flock was destroyed after the initial discovery.

The movement of poultry in Juneau County will remain banned until the end of the month. Similar bans remain in effect for Barron, Chippewa, and Jefferson counties, where the virus has also been found. However, officials say there are no current plans to cancel bird exhibits at local, county, and state fairs later this summer.

Loether named new Wisconsin ‘Alice in Dairyland’

Teyanna Loether, Alice in Dairyland

Teyanna Loether, Alice in Dairyland

A UW-Madison student will serve as Wisconsin’s 68th Alice in Dairyland.

Teyanna Loether of Sauk City was named this weekend as the newest Alice, making her the latest in a long line of ambassadors for Wisconsin agriculture. She said she hopes to use the position to teach those she interacts with over the next year something they “can take back with them into their daily lives.”

Loether is set to graduate this spring from the UW-Madison with a master’s degree in animal sciences. She grew up on a dairy farm and was a 2010 Fairest of the Fair.

Loether said she is “really looking forward to carrying on the story of Wisconsin agriculture,” with a particular focus on helping the public understand where their food comes from. She hopes to use a “Recipes from Alice” idea to help show what Wisconsin ingredients are involved, along with the stories of their production, the people who helped make them, and the nutrition they provide.

Loether will begin her duties on June first. She will succeed Zoey Brooks of Waupaca, the 67th Alice in Dairyland.

Brownfield Network’s Bob Meyer contributed to this report.

Number of Wisconsin dairy farms dips below 10,000

The total number of Wisconsin dairy farm operations has dropped below 10,000 for the first time in generations. Brad Legreid is executive director of Wisconsin Dairy Products Association. He said the decline in facilities is not that unusual.

For the past “50 or 60 years,” he said there’s been an annual decline of about 3,000 farms. “Just through natural attrition. Farmers retiring, maybe merging with other farmers.” He said, “Every year you see a drop that is occurring.”

When Legreid took the helm back in 1990, there were about 34,000 farms in the state. Now there are 9,929. Despite fewer farms, most are larger with more cows. And, milk production has increased. “Back in, say, like in 1990, the average size herd was probably around 40 head. Now it’s probably around 100 head,” he said, “and there are many farms that have around three-four-five-six-thousand cows.”

A record 27.7 billion pounds of milk was produced last year with more than 1.27 million milking cows, a record high.

Clark County has the highest number of dairy herds in Wisconsin with 872.

Gaining some perspective on avian influenza

File photo: DACTP

File photo: DATCP

The deadly avian influenza is making headlines in Wisconsin, with well over a million chickens and turkeys now being destroyed because of outbreaks of the virus on just ten farms in the state. While those facilities will feel the impacts of the virus for months to come, Wisconsin is actually faring better than many of its neighboring states when it comes to the prevalence of the H5 bird flu strain.

Raechelle Cline with the state Department of Agriculture, Trade, and Consumer Protection says about 1.7 million birds have been euthanized in Wisconsin because of the virus, but it’s only a small fraction of what things could look like with a more widespread outbreak. Those ten farms are among the 19,173 registered premises in the state that produce poultry and eggs.

Several neighboring states are seeing a much more pronounced impact from the spread of the virus, the cause of which remains unknown. Iowa has had about 21 confirmed cases, while Minnesota has seen the virus found on about 80 farms. Nationwide, the US Department of Agriculture says there have 133 cases detected since December, resulting in the destruction of over 25.7 million birds.


Petrowski responds to IOH law criticism

Sen. Jerry Petrowski (WRN photo)

Sen. Jerry Petrowski (WRN photo)

While the sheriff in Clark Count refuses to enforce Wisconsin’s Implements of Husbandry farm machinery laws, the author of the law says it did not change existing penalties for overweight machines on roadways. Sheriff Greg Herrick issued a statement Friday saying he is also a farmer, and has directed his deputies not to enforce the less than one-year-old law or the recent changes signed by the Governor a week ago. He claims the high fines are unconstitutional.

State Senator Jerry Petrowski (R-Marathon) is the author of the law and accompanying language. He said the law did not establish for being overweight. “The fine structure and everything has always been in place,” he said. “The Implements of Husbandry bill didn’t touch any of the fines.”

Petrowski said the misconception many farmers have is that they don’t have to follow highway weight limits or the reduced spring posted limits. “I know that some people thought that there was an exemption for weight for agriculture, but there has not been an exemption for being overweight for agriculture.” He adds, “I know that many of the farmers that have been stopped, at least one was cited, but I believe it was on the roads that were posted, and IOH did not take away any ability for local government to post their roads.”

The Senator says the Implements of Husbandry law addressed a problem created by modern farming, and that’s the increased sizes and weights of machinery used to efficiently manage acreage quicker. Petrowski says IOH was the beginning to addressing issues that had not been discussed before. “What the bill basically did was bring together all of the agricultural community to come up with something so they could continue to farm, use their heavy equipment, and give them a way to be able to get to their fields. It has not only increased the weight that was legal, but it also gave them the ability to get a permit, a no-cost permit, to be able to farm.”