A virus that has killed millions of birds is spreading among US dairy cows, raising concerns that the outbreak may hurt demand for dairy and beef.

While the US Department of Agriculture has said there’s little safety risk, the outbreak is unsettling the industry, with cattle and milk prices taking a hit. There’s concern some shoppers will balk at drinking milk or eating beef.

“Risks to consumer demand for dairy are prevalent in conversations,” StoneX Group Inc. analyst Dave Kurzawski said in a note to clients. He added that while there are “big risks on the table,” the impact of the illness on buyer behavior is unclear.


Bird flu has been confirmed in dairy cows across several states, with the USDA saying Monday it has been found in New Mexico and five additional herds in Texas. The virus has even infected a person in Texas, while the biggest US egg producer idled a plant after the virus was found in the facility.

The infection of cows by the same virus strain that emerged in Europe in 2020 — and has since caused an unprecedented number of deaths in wild birds and poultry globally — is also raising concerns on the supply side.

Infected Texas dairy cattle are experiencing decreased lactation and low appetite, with older cows more likely to be severely impacted. Some herds have reported pneumonia and clinical mastitis — an inflammatory disease — the Texas Animal Health Commission said by email. Most animals seem to recover in as many as two weeks with supported care, albeit with reduced milk production levels.

Some cows may never see their milk production recover to pre-infection levels, in which case they might be culled, according to a HighGround Dairy report Monday. “The longer-term impact on supply is not entirely clear, as farmers are trying to maintain herd inventories in a time of tight cattle supplies,” it said.

For an individual farmer who has already been struggling with low prices and low margins, even a small amount of lost production adds another challenge, according to Alan Bjerga, executive vice president of communications and industry relations at the National Milk Producers Federation. But he added that the overall impact to the industry should be mild.