Farmers, it's safe to take those masks off your cows.

OK, so no one was actually doing that, but ag researchers have determined that most farm animals are not susceptible to COVID-19 and don't spread the coronavirus, which scientists call the SARS-CoV-2 virus.

In the words of Cyril Gay, ARS senior national program leader for animal production and protection: “ARS research clearly provided science-based evidence that eggs and live poultry, cattle, swine, and arthropods (mosquitoes, ticks, flies), were not able to replicate the virus and become a source of infection for people.”

Of all the farmed animals studied, only deer were susceptible to SARS-CoV-2.

“Interestingly, deer did not get sick, but they quickly spread the virus to other deer,” Gay said.

Newsletter signup for email alerts

Gay's comments appeared in an article on Tellus, which provides information on USDA research.

The research on farm animals and COVID-19 was started in February 2020 as the pandemic was just beginning to sweep the United States. Studies were done at the National Animal Disease Center, in Ames, Iowa, which covered research on swine, cattle and white-tailed deer; the National Poultry Research Center, in Athens, Georgia; and the Arthropod-Borne Animal Disease Research Unit, in Manhattan, Kansas.

While ARS studied only farmed deer, Jeffrey Silverstein, an administrator with in the ARS Animal Production and Protection division, said it is safe to assume wild deer would have the same traits as the farmed deer.

In addition to white-tailed deer, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's website says that mink and mink farms also are susceptible to coronavirus transmission. There were confirmed reports of mink transmitting the virus to humans.

It also has been suspected that the coronavirus was introduced into humans through live animal markets in the Wuhan province of China and may have originated in bats.

But generally, the CDC says there is no evidence that wildlife might be a source of infection for people in the United States.

The CDC does provide tips for hunters, such as not eating the brains of a deer or cutting through its spine.

Pets like cats, dogs, and ferrets can be infected, with the animals usually becoming infected after their owner or another with close contact has contracted COVID-19, the CDC says, but the risk of animals spreading COVID-19 to people is considered to be low.

So if you do become sick with COVID-19, it's a good idea to keep your pets away from you. But at least you don't have to put a mask on your cow.