Migrating birds increased the chance of avian influenza to poultry producers
Every year as wild birds migrate, cases of avian influenza increase in the poultry industry. Producers must protect their poultry investment now and prevent the virus from affecting their flocks.
There are some things poultry farmers of all sizes can do to protect their birds such as keeping their free-range birds inside during high-risk times, limiting visitors and keeping their houses clean.
Keeping Domestic Birds Inside
Every year wild birds migrate to the Southern regions during the winter and then retreat to breed in the spring. While the wild birds are migrating, they enjoy making some stops along the way. Many homeowners have birdbaths and bird feeders provided for the migrating birds. However, wild birds can carry avian influenza and can easily pass the virus on to domestic birds.
An exceptional way to protect domestic poultry from the disease is to make sure birds are inside. This is a small task that can have a huge outcome. When domestic birds are left outside while wild birds are migrating their likelihood of catching avian influenza increases.
Poultry growers can help protect their investment by establishing a separation between the domestic birds and wild birds. Some domestic birds are large and hard to contain inside, so there is an alternative. Growers of larger domestic birds should make sure the wild birds cannot access the domestic birds’ food or water sources.
“No one is allowed on the farm besides ourselves and select people from Butterball,” Richard Hayden, turkey farmer in southwest Missouri, said.
Humans are a mode of transportation for the disease. Limiting the number of people around the domestic birds can help lower the amount of avian influenza cases. When a visitor needs to enter the barn, the producer needs to make sure the visitor is sanitized before entering.
“To keep our boots disinfected we must wash them down with a solution and use a boot scrubber then dip our feet in another powder disinfectant,” Hayden said.
Also, the poultry farmer should make sure the visitor is sanitized before leaving the operation. Having the visitor sanitize before leaving can help prevent the spread of any diseases to the next farm the visitor goes to.
University of Arkansas Extension Agent Randy Black said one thing they stress to their 4-H students is after touching wild waterfowl such as ducks, the students have to change clothes and wash their hands before touching domestic poultry.
Keeping Facilities Clean
One of the most important practices for poultry farmers is to keep their facilities clean and bio secure.
“Cleanliness of our facilities is one of our number one priorities,” Hayden said.
One key to keeping facilities clean is ensuring a deep clean is done when a flock leaves and before the next flock comes into the houses. Once a flock leaves, producers begin to disinfect the barns, wash feeders and most of the time farmers will run a cleaner through the water lines to flush out any unwanted bacteria.
While these practices are common among contract growers, they apply to smaller operations as well, including chicken coups and small layer houses.
“If you keep your facilities in check with bio security, it’s better for your animals and lowers bacteria count,” Black said.