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USDA reaches out to small flock owners

By Staff | Nov 12, 2010

A GAGGLE OF Sebastopol geese promenade before a photographer. The USDA is trying to reach producers of commercial and private poultry and exotic bird collectors in an effort to eradicate a slate of avian diseases from American flocks.

By ROBYN KRUGER

Farm News staff writer

The commercial poultry industry often takes the brunt of negative press when it comes to disease outbreaks threatening the country’s food supply.

In recent years an increase of small poultry producers has emerged. From small rural flocks to urban coops, raising poultry has again become a common practice in the U.S.

With this new trend, the U.S. Department of Agriculture is reaching out to educate this small, but increasing, number of producers.

Americana rooster.

Small flocks are not immune to disease. In 2004, a large outbreak of Exotic Newcastle Disease created havoc in California and several western states.

Most of the infected birds were found in commercial flocks, but the disease was also found in small flocks and in exotic bird collections.

This particular outbreak was eradicated by state and federal governments at a cost of more than $160 million.

Since that time, the USDA’s Animal Plant and Health Inspection Service has launched a Biosecurity for Birds campaign in an effort to reach the non-USDA regulated backyard poultry and bird owners as well as pet bird owners.

Diseases they are focused on eradicating include:

  • Exotic Newcastle Disease:?Symptoms include sneezing, gasping for air, nasal discharge, coughing; greenish, watery diarrhea; depression, muscular tremors, drooping wings, twisting of head and neck, circling, complete paralysis; partial to complete drop in egg production, laying thin-shelled eggs, swelling of the tissues around the eyes and in the neck, sudden death, and increased deaths in a flock.
  • Avian influenza:?Symptoms include sudden death without clinical signs, lack of energy and appetite, decreased egg production, soft-shelled or misshapen eggs, swelling of the head, eyelids, comb, wattles and hocks, purple discoloration of the wattles, combs and legs, nasal discharge, coughing, sneezing, lack of coordination; and diarrhea. Many birds with LPAI may not show any signs of disease.

USDA’s campaign focuses on several key elements. These include:

  • Advertising. There have been Biosecurity for Birds ads in farm-related magazines and on feed sacks at local feed stores.
  • Outreach. The department has issued brochures in several languages distributed in ethnic publications, churches and local department stores in an effort to reach non-English speaking poultry raisers.
  • Education: APHIS is working to provide educational materials to FFA and 4-H programs.

It also provides materials for these groups to distribute at local and state fairs. Videos, webinars and downloadable information can all be found at the USDA’s Biosecurity for Birds website.

  • Stakeholder outreach. Poultry preparedness briefings have been held in several states across the country.

Stakeholders included backyard poultry owners, Extension service representatives, organic growers, and representatives from state and local agencies.

The media has also covered these briefings.

For more information on back yard biosecurity or for materials offered by APHIS, flock owners can visit “http://www.aphis.usda.gov/animal_health/birdbiosecurity/index.htm”>www.aphis.usda.gov/animal_health/birdbiosecurity/index.htm.

Contact Robyn Kruger at rangerob@hickorytech.net.

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