Date of this Version
Proceedings, 29th Vertebrate Pest Conference (D. M. Woods, Ed.) Paper No. 56. Published December 10, 2020. 3 pp.
Wild birds cause significant damage to dairy farms through the consumption and spoilage of cattle feed. A survey of Washington State dairy farmers revealed approximately $14 million in bird damage losses for the Washington State dairy industry, annually. Furthermore, farms that reported the presence of more than 10,000 birds per day were more likely to report the presence of Salmonella spp. or Johne’s disease (caused by Mycobacterium avium subsp. paratuberculosis). Over the course of three years, we assessed the impact of bird populations on the presence of bacteria in bird feces and the nutritional composition of cattle feed. Five dairies were enrolled into the study and visited to collect bird fecal samples and cattle feed samples. Several pens were monitored on each dairy. Bird fecal samples were analyzed for three bacterial populations. Fresh and bird-depleted feed samples were analyzed for dry matter, total digestible nutrients, protein, crude fiber, ash, fat, and net energy. The prevalence of bacterial populations in bird fecal samples did not differ among farms, but Campylobacter jejuni, a bacterial strain known for causing abortions in cattle, was discovered in one location. The number of birds observed at the feed bunk and the percentage of nutritional loss in cattle feed differed among pens. Understanding where birds prefer to feed on dairies may improve the effectiveness of bird deterrent management techniques. A variety of bird deterrent methods are available for dairy farmers but, at best, the most commonly used methods were considered only “somewhat effective” by farmers. The use of more sustainable methods, such as attracting native birds of prey to dairies, may be beneficial to dairy cattle well-being as well as dairy farmer economic sustainability.