By Abby Neu
Extension Educator – Poultry
firstname.lastname@example.org | 320-235-0726 x 2019
An unseen benefit to the devastation of the 2015 highly pathogenic avian influenza outbreak can be the lessons learned from it. The industry – companies, farms and researchers – have been able to identify risk factors where their impact t can be reduced through emergency plans, permitting processes, operational procedures and over-all preparedness.
In 2015, a study was conducted by the University of Minnesota College of Veterinary Medicine’s Center for Animal Health and Food Safety (CAHFS). The study aim was to identify potential risk factors associated with the HPAI outbreak. Numerous risk factors were named in the CAHFS report published in January 2016. The report provided risk factors throughout the study time period as well as risk factors detected early on in the outbreak and later in the outbreak. The study found the most concerning risk factor was the proximity of a turkey farm to an infected turkey farm. Throughout the duration of the study time period, a non-infected farm was found to be 46% more likely to become infected if it was located within 1.5 miles of a confirmed infection. A second major factor was the movement of bird mortality by rendering trucks which increased odds of a farm becoming infected by 10%.
Early in the outbreak, turkey farms that had tilling, discing, fertilizing or planting activity going on nearby had a 14% increase of becoming infected. This was also the time period of wild bird spring migration (April).Influenza virus has been proven to survive cold temperatures in soil through previous research. Migrating birds who were carriers of the virus could have shed the virus through their feces onto the fields that surround poultry facilities. The disruption of the soil surface during early spring fieldwork could cause soil particles to become airborne, possibly carrying the virus to poultry production facilities.
The study showed the potential for a risk factor (soil related) in HPAI transmission to exist among different types of agricultural operations. Connecting two dissimilar operations can be difficult. In late February and early March, I had the opportunity to travel the state to speak to corn growers about avian influenza. Sixty eight percent of the meeting attendees stated the reason they came was to learn more about the turkey/poultry industry. They were curious about aspects of agriculture they are unfamiliar with and especially avian influenza as it also affected them indirectly with less corn being fed to Minnesota poultry. By the conclusion of the meetings, they were open to working with nearby turkey farms to lessen this risk factor.
So, how well do you know your neighbors? Now is as good of a time as any to get to know them. If you already know them, you are one step ahead in the game. Pick a morning to bring them coffee and a couple donuts and ask a favor of them. You can start by explaining basics of AI and how it affected you and the industry in 2015. Then, kindly ask them to give you forewarning when they will be working in the fields near your barns. This will allow you the opportunity to “batten down the hatches” as they say. Weather permitting, you can raise the curtains for those few days or minimize ventilation to extent possible (without harming the flock), and ensure your personal and farm biosecurity is maximized. You will be pleasantly surprised how receptive your crop-growing neighbor will be when you take the time to get to know them, and share some information about avian influenza.
Call me (320-235-0726 x 2019 or e-mail email@example.com) if you want to practice before you visit your neighbor. MTGA staff or I can provide facts and numbers about the outbreak to you. Working together to minimize the risk of avian influenza is beneficial for you your farm neighbor(s) and all of Minnesota’s agriculture industry.