First Iowa Farms Hit by Bird Flu Are Weeks Away From Restocking

By Lauren R. Hartman, Product Development Editor

Jul 23, 2015

One of the first turkey farms in Iowa where bird flu was discovered is quickly approaching the time at which the birds can be restocked, though most of the 77 farms affected are still weeks away from introducing new flocks, says the Iowa Department of Agriculture. Iowa is the country's leading egg producer.

The bird flu outbreak, which began in mid-April, killed 31.5 million chickens and turkeys in the state. An update by officials on the recovery progress indicates that all farms have been cleared of birds. Disposal of manure, compost and other waste continued at 18 farms.

The last reported case of bird flu was four weeks ago. All birds that died or were euthanized have been incinerated, buried or taken to landfills. After barns are cleaned and disinfected, they must not be used for 21 days, and routine sampling must confirm that no virus remains. The Iowa sites have completed cleaning and disinfection and are in the 21-day follow-up phase. The USDA is working with the industry on how to deal with a recurrence of the virus if it returns in the fall or spring.

It's probable that a few farms won’t return to business, according to Iowa Secretary of Agriculture Bill Northey, but most farm operators are diligently working to restock. “We will have a few older facilities or some in a stage of life or because of financial impact of this that won’t go back into business,” Northey stated.

New flocks of birds brought into the farms will be quarantined until they undergo at least three tests for bird flu and remain virus-free.

Meanwhile, a recent report released by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) on egg production reveals how severe the flu outbreak was on Iowa, as egg production in June there was 763 million eggs, down 44 percent from last year, the lowest June production figure since February 2002. Nationwide, egg production dropped nine percent in June compared to the same month last year, with a total of 7.4 billion eggs produced, the USDA says.

According to USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack, scientists have developed a vaccine that tested 100-percent effective in protecting chickens from avian flu, with testing underway to see if it protects turkeys.

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