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After bird flu, Manson farm first to restock

By Staff | Aug 14, 2015

-AP photo TURKEYS STAND in a barn on the Moline family turkey farm Monday in Manson. The Moline farm is the first Iowa farm to restock after the bird flu outbreak that killed 48 million birds in 15 states.




MANSON – A turkey farm outside Manson is the first in Iowa to begin restocking after its flocks fell victim to the bird flu outbreak earlier this year.

“We filled up the brooder barn on July 31, so 10 days ago,” said farmer Brad Moline. “We are the first farm in the state of Iowa. So far so good. Things are rolling along good.”

-Submitted photo Poults — turkeys under 5 weeks old — keep warm in one of the Moline family barns. After being devastated by avian influenza, the farm began to restock its barnss on July 31.

Moline’s family farm was confirmed to have Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza on May 19 and identified as Calhoun 1.

“We went through the disease. We got everything cleaned and tested environmentally negative for any virus, so that means we got the job done,” Moline said. “All of our barns are eligible to restock.”

After the first positive test for the disease in May, all the rest of Moline’s sites were infected in a matter of weeks.

“It’s an unbelievable disease. It’s very fast, it’s very, very devastating,” he said. “There is no vaccine, no way to prevent it.”

The farm has six barns that hold 28,800 brooder poults up to five weeks of age and 14,400 finisher turkeys that are five to 20 weeks of age.

The first of three flocks is now beginning to repopulate, he said.

“It will take three flocks of 28,800 to fully restock our entire farm. This is the first step, so we’re excited about that, and we’re encouraged about the changes the federal and state government are making.”

Moline testified before Congress in July, calling for faster response to any future outbreak. He said the response he’s gotten from officials is encouraging.

“They’ve addressed our concerns as well,” he said.

Iowa has had 77 total premises and 34 million birds affected with H5N2 HPAI since April 13. That includes 35 commercial turkey flocks, 22 commercial egg production flocks, 13 pullet flocks, one breeding flock for a mail order hatchery, and six backyard flocks.

Depopulation and disposal has been completed at all 77 premises. Sixteen sites have completed the cleaning and disinfection process. Four sites are now eligible for repopulation.

With many sites needing birds at once, that repopulation could take some time, said Dustin Vande Hoef, with the Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship.

“That can be a challenge,” Vande Hoef said. “A lot of these birds came from Minnesota, which also was very hard-hit by the disease. He (Moline) was able get his, but there is concern if a number of sites come online close together, it could be a challenge to get enough poults to go into those.”

Laying farms also can’t repopulate all at once. They need to go through the laying cycle, he said.

The Department of Agriculture also announced 69 of the 77 control zones that were established around infected premises are being lifted.

These zones affected any farms that weren’t infected, but were within a 10-kilometer radius around each site with a confirmed case of HPAI. These farms were quarantined and all movement of poultry and poultry products, feed and fuel in and out of those quarantined noninfected premises had to be permitted by the Iowa Department of Agriculture.

To be eligible for the control zone to be lifted, 60 days must have elapsed since the poultry located on the infected premises were depopulated or 21 days must have elapsed since cleaning and disinfection were completed on the infected premise.

There have been 18 counties with at least one control zone and now there will only be control zones remaining on six farms in three counties. These farms are located in Adair, Sioux and Wright counties.

At a Monday press conference at the farm, Moline and agriculture officials said the industry is much better prepared should there be a recurrence of the virus this fall.

Iowa Secretary of Agriculture Bill Northey said poultry farmers are looking at biosecurity practices that include controlling worker access to barns and keeping vehicles from parking near them. Wild birds and rodents, which carry infected droppings on their feet, must be kept out of barns, he said.

The outbreak cost the poultry industry an estimated $360 million, spreading so quickly it overwhelmed resources.

“There are a list of things that if it comes back again we’ll be more aggressive on,” Northey said. “We’ll be more aggressive to make sure it doesn’t move and if we get a few cases it will stay at a few cases.”

The key will be quicker detection of the virus, said Jack Shere, a U.S. Department of Agriculture veterinary administrator. He said farmers now know that even a few dead birds should be alarming. Some may consider preventative testing.

“The longer birds are infected the more it spreads and the virus load climbs,” Shere said.

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