The second year of this project focused on the collection of responses from the economic survey for dairy producers, development of sampling protocols for on-farm research, and collection of research samples. The economic survey for this project was created and approved for distribution at the 2017 Washington State Dairy Industry Annual Meeting. A response rate of approximately 49% was achieved. Video cameras were installed on five dairy farms to collect cow and wild bird behavior data. Additionally, cow feed samples and wild bird fecal samples were collected on two of the five dairies during this year. Feed samples were collected under three conditions of feed access: 1) only cows had access; 2) cows and wild birds had access; and 3) only birds had access. These samples were tested for changes in nutritional value. Bird fecal samples were tested for the presence of pathogenic species. Upon completion of this project, researchers and dairy producers will better understand how wild birds affect dairy cow nutrition, behavior, and health.
The objectives for Year 2 were:
- Survey producers – estimate the economic impact of dairy losses to the regional economy. The economic survey was distributed and a response rate of approximately 49% was achieved at the 2017 Washington State Dairy Industry Annual Meeting. Economic specialists are currently analyzing the survey responses to determine the true losses on dairies from wild birds.
- Outreach – disseminate information about wild bird species identification and management on farms. One newsletter article and one peer-reviewed factsheet were published to increase awareness of wild bird management issues on dairies. Two popular press articles and two public presentations were shared to help educate the public on wild bird management topics. Research team members shared wild bird species identification cards and discussed wild bird management methods with dairy producers at the state-wide annual dairy producer meeting.
- Field data collection – collect feed samples, bird fecal samples, and behavior data. Five dairies were enrolled into this component of the project. Video cameras were installed on each farm to record cow and bird behavior data. Feed samples from three conditions (bird only access, cow only access, bird and cow access) were collected on three farms. Bird fecal samples were also collected on these farms. All fecal samples are currently being analyzed for the presence of pathogenic species.
At the conclusion of Year 2, all objectives and performance targets planned for Year 2 have been completed. Progress is expected to continue as planned.
The wild bird problem on dairies in the Pacific Northwest (PNW), especially regarding European starlings (Sternus vulgaris), has been compounded with changes in land use and agricultural practices over the past 20-30 years. In other areas of the U.S., the impact of the non-native European starlings on dairies has been linked to significant economic damages (including loss of high-value feed components and subsequent loss of milk production in cows) and disease transmission concerns (including Escherichia coli O157:H7 and Salmonella).
As acreage devoted to blueberry and other fruit crops has dramatically increased in the PNW, dairies are increasingly likely co-located in less than two miles from a fruit crop. This dairy-fruit interface provides an ideal habitat for European starlings to feast on open commodity storage and bunker faces in fall, winter and spring, and then access ripening fruit in summer. Dairy facilities also provide birds with year-round roosting habitats. By assessing bird populations, feed losses, cow behavior and related health factors, this project will result in a comprehensive identification of economic impacts of wild birds not only to producers but to the entire regional economy.
The potential disease vector role of starlings has been documented, although no known studies have evaluated the impact of wild birds on dairy cow behavior and welfare. Video recordings targeting dairy feed bunks will shed light on wild bird-cow interactions that occur when cows are feeding and whether wild bird presence is detrimental to dairy cow welfare. If wild birds are deemed to impose a negative stressor on cows, this factor can be included when determining the need for intervention to control wild bird activity. Documenting feed quality loss (from birds selecting the most nutritious components) and Escherichia coli O157:H7 and Salmonella prevalence (from birds defecating on feed) at the feed bunk, by comparing feed characteristics pre- and post- bird presence, will also lead to a more accurate estimate of bird damage costs. This information will be useful to producers as they consider costs and benefits of implementing wild bird control measures.
The overarching hypothesis is that the presence of wild birds at dairy feed bunks causes dairy cows to consume less feed, increases the number of pathogenic species present at feed bunks, and decreases the amount of nutrients available for cows.
The number of wild birds present on eleven dairies were recorded at sunrise and sunset every seven days for approximately eight months during each year. Wireless video cameras were installed on five dairies to record dairy cow and wild bird behavior at the feedbunk and water troughs. These video cameras recorded behavior continuously for at least 24 hours on each farm.
The feed bunks of up to four pens at each of the five dairies were observed during feeding times to determine bird predation patterns. Three notable sections were labeled at each feed bunk, based on the bird feeding patterns. These sections were: 1) bird only access; 2) cow only access; or 3) cow and bird access. Approximately one hour after fresh feed was delivered, feed samples from all sections were collected for comparison. The nutritional components measured in each sample include dry matter, crude fat, crude protein, and carbohydrates. After feed samples were collected, bird fecal matter samples were collected near the feed bunk area. At least five fecal samples were collected from each pen. These samples were tested for the presence of Escherichia coli O157:H7 or Salmonella.
At the conclusion of Year 2 of this project, few preliminary results are available. Bird count data showed that the number of wild birds present on dairies greatly increased as the environmental temperatures began to decrease during the season. Shortly, the feed sample, behavior data, and bird fecal sample analyses will be completed and results will be disseminated.
Research conclusions are not complete at this time.
This project aimed to educate dairy producers and the general public through a variety of educational activities. From the start of the project, dairy producers were engaged in the development of survey tools and on-farm data collection methods. The methods of education for dairy producers included exhibit booth displays at the Washington State Dairy Industry Annual Meeting, newsletter articles, presentations, and a peer-reviewed factsheet.
The methods of education for the general public included exhibit booths at a county fair, popular press articles, and presentations. These educational activities focused on sharing the story of wild birds on dairies — why wild bird deterrence practices are necessary on dairies.
Additionally, the collaborators on this project value undergraduate and graduate student education. One M.S. graduate student and at least six undergraduate students were involved in this project.
Educational & Outreach Activities
During Year 2 of this project, collaborators created one peer-reviewed factsheet, two popular press articles, and two newsletter articles about wild bird management strategies on dairies. Other types of outreach included an on-farm demonstration of professional falconry, exhibit booths at fairs and meetings, presentations to dairy producers and community members, and on-farm tours.
Upcoming education activities will include newsletter articles, popular press articles, another factsheet, presentations, scientific journal articles, and talks at scientific meetings.
- Wild bird migration patterns
- Identification of beneficial wild birds
- Economic impact of wild birds
Wild bird migration patterns
Identification of beneficial wild birds
Upon completion of this project, dairy producers will gain additional awareness on how much damage wild birds cause on their dairies. This information will help them make well-informed decisions on which bird deterrence strategies are most economical for their dairies. Educating dairy producers about the benefits of using sustainable bird deterrence practices, especially non-lethal practices, will have a positive effect on producer-public relations.