Avian Influenza: Guidelines for Backyard Poultry Flocks

The Nebraska Department of Agriculture recently decided to cancel all poultry shows, sales, and swap-meets as a proactive measure designed to increase biosecurity and decrease the potential spread of Avian Influenza.

This article (written by myself and Dr. Sheila Purdum, UNL Poultry Specialist) will provide information about Avian Influenza and suggest recommendations for small or backyard flock owners. Avian Influenza can affect all birds, regardless of housing arrangement or size of flock.

What birds can be infected? The AI virus will infect: chickens, turkeys, quail, ducks, geese, guinea fowl, and a wide variety of other birds.

Avian Influenza Symptoms: Lethargic (tired) or listless, depression, decreased egg production, coughing, sneezing, wet eyes, huddling, ruffled feathers, decreased food and/or water consumption, or a high temperature/fever. In three to five days there may be an 80-90% mortality rate. In your flock, if mortality increases, contact your local veterinarian immediately so they can help you get viable swabs to a lab as soon as possible.

Understanding Influenza: Cases of AI started popping up on the West Coast in December 2014 and have since moved east. The influenza virus is not new or uncommon. People get seasonal influenza (Types A and B) and swine get influenza (Type A). Most currently, we are familiar with Avian Influenza (Type A) which affects all types of birds. Within each type there are various H (16) and N (9) types, hence why you may see the viruses reported as H5N2. Additionally, viruses get together and exchange genetic material, re-sorting and mutating – making it challenging to effectively treat a virus.

Avian Influenza can either be referred to as Highly Pathogenic (HP) or Low Pathogenic (LP). High pathogenic indicates it is a severe and highly infectious disease – to cause an outbreak, only the amount of virus that will fit on the head of a pin is needed. With HP, there may be an 80-95% mortality rate in as little as five days. The HP is usually types H5 or H7. Low pathogenic on the other hand is a mild disease, with a low mortality rate usually caused from a secondary bacterial infection. The LP types are H1, H3, H5, H7, or H9.

Highly Pathogenic flocks DO NOT enter the food supply. They are humanely euthanized and properly disposed of by composting or burial.

Sources of infection and spread: Wild migratory water fowl are the natural host, which means they can become infected but they do not generally get sick and/or die from the infection. However, they will spread it to other healthy hosts (i.e. birds), making them sick or resulting in death. The wild migratory water fowl will shed large amounts of virus into the environment via ponds, waterways, as well as onto grain fields in the spring or fall when large numbers congregate together. Sparrows act as a bridge between waterways where the virus host birds have been and poultry barns or backyard flocks. Sparrows are attracted to small puddles of water in which they bathe, drink, or look for insects to eat. In addition to infected birds visiting your healthy birds, shared equipment and people are sources of possible contamination. The AI can also be spread via wind – more specifically, dust and feathers may be vectors (although this is not the primary method of how the virus is spread). Nasal secretions may also be a source of contamination.

How long can the virus survive? Survival of the influenza virus depends on the strain. Fortunately, highly pathogenic (HP) strains do not usually survive as long as LP strains.

  • The influenza virus will survive on a clean surface for two days.
  • In fecal material or compost, the virus will survive for about 10 days (very important to know if you are doing dead animal composting).
  • In liquid manure, the influenza virus can survive in winter for 105 days.
  • While feces protect the virus, temperature also has a dramatic effect:
    • If feces are at 40o Fahrenheit, the virus will survive 30-35 days
    • If feces are at 70o Fahrenheit, the virus will survive seven days
    • If feces are at 90o Fahrenheit, the virus will survive four days
    • If the drinking/bathing water is at 66o Fahrenheit, the virus will survive 94-160 days
    • If the drinking/bathing water is at 88o Fahrenheit, the virus will survive 26-30 days

Things that help the virus thrive: Cold or freezing temperatures, fresh or slightly salty water, grain fields or water located in convenient locations, inadequate biosecurity, and possibly strong winds.

Things that hurt the virus: warm weather, dryness/sunshine, salt water, most disinfectants, high level of biosecurity, frozen lakes/rivers, and a surveillance program.

Is there treatment options available for the birds? Currently, there is no immunity in poultry flocks as they are not regularly vaccinated. At this time, vaccinations are only permitted for LP flocks. The USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) and state vets are determining if vaccination can be used as an emergency procedure for HP birds. At this time, vaccine is not available and still under review.

What if I find a dead wild bird at/near my home or an area I visit regularly? To error on the side of caution, it is recommended to call your State Veterinarian (a list of state vets and their contact information can be found at: https://www.avma.org/advocacy/stateandlocal/stateanimalhealthofficials/pages/default.aspx) and arrange to have a sample sent to the National Poultry Disease Lab in Ames, Iowa. Your local veterinarian can assist with getting the sample packaged and sent. Again, it is important to note, if you have wild birds on your property, you should proceed with strict biosecurity protocols for your backyard poultry flock’s health and safety.

What should I use to disinfect shoes/equipment/eggs? A low to mild Clorox solution (three parts bleach to two parts water), soapy sanitizers, or other disinfectants mixed per label instructions.

What happens if I have to depopulate my flock? Thoroughly disinfect everything. Allow the amount of time needed, as provided above, to pass. During this time, review your biosecurity plan and look for areas that could be made stronger. Do you know when and/or how your flock became infected? What will you change as a result?

Risk to humans: The risk of contracting AI is low to negligible in humans. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) reports that to date, there have been no reported illnesses or spread to human hosts. Precautions are recommended for workers depopulating and euthanizing HP flocks in large barns. First signs of symptoms for this potential population is respiratory problems and/or conjunctivitis, anti-viral drugs may be given as a precaution.

Are poultry products still safe to consume? Yes! Avian flu CANNOT be transmitted through safely handled and properly cooked poultry meat and/or egg products. The World Health Organization (WHO) has determined HP can survive in poultry, but keep in mind, HP flocks do not enter the food supply! If you notice a bird in your backyard flock has come down with the AI symptoms, do not consume that bird! Contact your local veterinarian and dispose of it as directed. Table eggs sold in retail markets are sanitized prior to human consumption. If you are raising/buying eggs that are locally sourced, ensure from the supplier they are being properly sanitized.

What do the next six months look like? The U.S. has the strongest surveillance program in the world. Unfortunately, this is not over yet and the impact on the poultry and egg industry is unknown. The number of cases will hopefully decrease over the summer as temperatures increase. However, the virus outbreaks may increase again in the fall as migratory birds go to fields to forage for grains.

What can I do to protect my flock? Biosecurity = risk management! Put as many procedures in place as possible to prevent the introduction of disease causing organisms into your barns and onto your farm.

  • Increase the level of biosecurity!
  • Bring birds indoors, get them away from open sources of water that other birds are drinking from or defecating in.
  • Provide clean and sanitary water to your birds:
    • If your flock is drinking from standing water sources, those water sources need to be completely blocked off so that small wild birds cannot access the water, thus potentially contaminating your flock.
    • If you are not able to use clean well water, water from other sources will need to be sanitized before it is used or may cause disease outbreak.
    • The AI virus will survive for longer periods of time in silt and mud in cool temperatures at the bottom of ponds (at 63o F, the virus will survive up to 100).
  • Do not allow your birds to graze or be on pastures where wild birds have access.
  • Limit traffic to your flock and your facility. If you are selling eggs or meat, consider meeting customers off your farm to decrease the potential for the AI virus to come to your farm.
  • Only allow authorized personnel to be near your poultry. This may be just immediately family. Do not allow any unnecessary visitors.
  • Determine if your personal biosecurity plan is strict enough. Do you have a sanitizing foot bath? Do you have a vehicle or equipment sanitizing plan?
  • Do you have a plan for people to change clothes before and after working with or near poultry?
  • If traveling out of state or to another poultry facility please use all good biosecurity precautions.
  • New stock should only be introduced from sources you are sure are AI free and not from areas in or near an AI outbreak.
  • If you are selling eggs: thoroughly clean and disinfect each egg prior to giving to the client. Only re-use clean cartons (no debris or dust).
  • If you and/or your family have visited a state park or other common place where water fowl frequent, please use extra precaution on cleaning shoes, vehicles, clothes, or any equipment to ensure you do not infect your flock.

Sources:

Carver, Donna (2015). Presenting avian influenza in backyard poultry flocks. North Carolina Cooperative Extension Service.

Purdum, S. (2015 April). H5N2 Avian Flu. UNL MarketJournal.

USDA: Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service. (2015 June). Avian Influenza Disease.

USDA: Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service. (2015 June). Update on Avian Influenza Findings.

Wojcinski, H. (2015). Avian Influenza: What you need to know. Hybrid Genetics. Recorded presentation.

Aviary Systems (2)_UNL photo-final

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Dr. Lindsay can also be found on:

– Website (http://food.unl.edu/ag-and-food)
– Twitter/Instagram (agwithdrlindsay)
– Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/agwithdrlindsay)
– Pinterest (Lindsay Chichester-Medahunsi)

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Heat Stress: Something to sweat about

In Eastern Nebraska, our temperatures have jumped the last few days, the nights aren’t cooling down, there is high humidity, and no wind. Unfortunately, this combination can be dangerous for livestock. At UNL, our beef team has been trying to push out resources and information to beef farmers and ranchers to help them prepare for these high heat events.

Last year I did a blog post on heat stress. At the bottom of the post are more resources on how to help dairy animals, feedlot animals, and youth exhibiting at livestock shows. These high heat events are dangerous for both humans and animals.

heat stress

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Dr. Lindsay can also be found on:

– Website (http://food.unl.edu/ag-and-food)
– Twitter/Instagram (agwithdrlindsay)
– Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/agwithdrlindsay)
– Pinterest (Lindsay Chichester-Medahunsi)

Record rainfall accross the country shatters May records

May was the wettest month in recorded history for many locations across the U.S.

In Lincoln, Nebraska (the capital city), we received a total of 10.90 inches of rain just in May 2015. That broke the record held from 1903 of 10.72 inches of rain.

storm in field
A storm is brewing…

As storms continue to cross the country, we may be able to break the record for the wettest year, which was in 1951 with an annual total of 42.17 inches of rain (precipitation data has been measured since 1887).

Around the country, Oklahoma reported a total of 14.40 inches of rain just in May, shattering the previous record of 10.75 inches measured in October 1941. Texas reported a statewide average of 8.81 inches in May, again shattering the previous record of 6.66 inches measured in June 2004.

Other cities that have set rainfall records include Oklahoma City (OK), Dallas (TX), Fort Smith (AR), Baton Rouge (LA), Wichita (KS), and Colorado Springs (CO). Read more about those rainfall records here.

storm on road- final
Driving into the unknown…

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Dr. Lindsay can also be found on:

– Website (http://food.unl.edu/ag-and-food)
– Twitter/Instagram (agwithdrlindsay)
– Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/agwithdrlindsay)
– Pinterest (Lindsay Chichester-Medahunsi)

Avian Influenza-Nebraska Update

Avian Influenza has been a catastrophic event for the poultry industry across the U.S. Jenny has summarized the message we are getting in Nebraska, but I think it is applicable to poultry farmers and consumers everywhere.

JenREESources's Extension Blog

Dr. Sheila Purdum, Nebraska Extension Poultry Specialist asked us to share the following

Photo courtesy Nebraska Extension Poultry page: https://animalscience.unl.edu/anscextensionpoultry Photo courtesy Nebraska Extension Poultry website.

information about avian influenza.  Unfortunately, Nebraska has HPAI H5N2 in a commercial flock of laying hens in Dixon County. This is the same virus that has been infecting turkeys in MN and WI and laying hens in the state of IA for the past 3 months. It is a deadly flu virus to poultry, killing as many as 90% of the flock within 3 days of the first symptoms. The major source of the virus has been migrating waterfowl, but it is believed to be airborne now traveling on numerous vectors to include people’s clothing, vehicles and other animals that may have come into contact with migrating waterfowl excrement, dust, etc.

Biosecurity:

The good news is that Biosecurity measures such as disinfecting all equipment coming into contact with your bird’s environment…

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Animal Agriculture Alliance Symposium take-aways

I recently attended the Animal Agriculture Alliance’s 14th Annual Stakeholders Summit. It was a great summit with top-notch speakers, important and relevant topics, and great networking opportunities (you can find the agenda and full details here). This year the theme was the Journey to Extraordinary, focusing on transparency and opening the barn doors.

AAAI wanted to share some of the messages that resonated with me, via my twitter account that was blowing up last week. These are just a few of the messages, to follow the entire conversation check out #aaa15. Also, you can listen to the presentation recordings here

– Rising global temps will make it a challenge to provide a stable environment to grow food in the future.

– Hunger and food availability are very real issues in America!

– In depth look at food and ag by National Geographic.

– Lots of great Millennial research.

– The average U.S. family of four waste every 1 in 3 calories – Wow!

– 1 in 8 people suffer from hunger. Yet we still fight over safe Ag technologies (ie GMO).

– Retailers don’t like Ag to use a technology that they can’t defend to consumers.

– Mandatory GM labeling would add approx $500/yr/family in grocery costs!

– All food is local, it is just globally dispersed.

– Personable, passionate, and transparent people are good for Ag.

– Don’t throw your fellow producers under the bus for personal gain.

– Most animals get a perfect diet, they prob eat better than most people!

– Social media doesn’t replace one-on-one conversations with people – engage in person too.

– In order for teams to have a lot of innovation, they embrace the risk that comes with it!

– Stay calm and keep messages consistent! Good advice for a daunting interview.

– Start planning today if you don’t have a crisis management plan yet.

– Your employees are your best brand investors in the communities and at home.

As you can see the speakers, topics, and conversations were varied and diverse. There was some great information I can use instantly, and there is some stuff I will have to think on some more.

Do any of these message hit home for you?

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Dr. Lindsay can also be found on:

– Website (http://food.unl.edu/ag-and-food)
– Twitter/Instagram (agwithdrlindsay)
– Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/agwithdrlindsay)
– Pinterest (Lindsay Chichester-Medahunsi)

10 Things You May Not Know About GMOs

Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs) are a huge advancement in agricultural technology. Wanda wrote a great blog post about some of the most common misconceptions about GMOs.

10 Things You May Not Know About GMOs.

What questions do you still have? What information can I provide to you about GMOs?

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Dr. Lindsay can also be found on:

– Website (http://food.unl.edu/ag-and-food)
– Twitter/Instagram (agwithdrlindsay)
– Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/agwithdrlindsay)
– Pinterest (Lindsay Chichester-Medahunsi)

Is the beef industry sustainable: A look at grass-fed, hormones, growth promotants, and more

Recently, several of my colleagues and I hosted a Sensitive Issues: Media and Communication Training, we worked on developing and improving our communication skills around agriculture and agricultural topics. One of the topics we received more information on was sustainability.

Dr. Jude Capper, a livestock sustainability consultant, was our first speaker. I want to share with some of the messages about sustainability shared by Dr. Capper.

Capper– Sustainability is defined as “able to last or continue for a long time.” Many livestock farmers and ranchers are sustainable – whether they raise 10 head or 1,000 head. If you have never heard of the Century Farms Program, you should check it out. The American Farm Bureau Foundation recognizes farms or ranches by state that have been in a family for 100+ years! That is sustainable.

– There are essentially three things that need to be considered to be sustainable: 1) the economic viability, 2) the environmental response, and 3) the social acceptance. I think you would agree that no matter the type of agriculture system, these are all important to livestock farmers and ranchers.

– Every farmer and rancher can be sustainable! Sustainability is seen in all types of agriculture — conventional, organic, grass-fed, grain-fed, small, and large. Size of the agricultural enterprise is NOT a determinant of sustainability. Sustainability does not just apply to niche agricultural products.

– Animal agriculture’s U.S. carbon footprint is small! According tot he U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) meat production accounts for 2.1% of total greenhouse gas emissions.

– If everybody in the U.S. went meatless every Monday for an entire year… The National carbon footprint would only decrease by less than 1/3 of 1 percent!

– If animal agriculture did not exist, what would be the carbon cost of sourcing product ingredients that currently come from agricultural byproducts? Think about all of the products we use daily (i.e. cosmetics, gelatin based foods, paints, etc.), medications, and even food for our pets. Animal agriculture helps keep the carbon footprint low!

– Meat and dairy can be replaced with vegetable proteins, but humans produce methane too!

– In 1977, it took five animals to produce the same amount of beef as four animals in 2007. Raising beef has become more efficient. 

– In 1977 it took 609 days to get them to a harvest (slaughter) weight, in 2007 it took 485 days.  This equates to 3,045 animal days in 1977 and 1,940 animal days in 2007. Raising beef has become more sustainable, and is reducing resources.

– If we converted our current cattle feeding system entirely to a grass-fed system:

– We would need 64.6 million more cattle for a grass-fed system. These cattle average a 615 pound hot carcass weight (the weight after the animal has been harvested, hide, hooves, and intestines/variety meats removed), and it would take approximately 679 days to get them to a desirable harvest (slaughter) weight.

– In comparison, a conventional (or grain-fed beef animal) has an approximate 800 pound hot carcass weight and takes approximately 444 days to get to desirable harvest weight. 

*** All cattle farming/ranching systems are needed and valued, whether it is grain-fed, grass-fed, organic, or natural — one is not better than another, they are just different.

– If, the entire beef industry converted entirely to grass-fed beef we would need an additional 131 million acres of land, 468 billion gallons of water, and 131 million tones of carbon!

– Hormones in food are considered unacceptable, but lifestyle hormones are acceptable.

– One 8 ounce steak from a non-implanted beef animal contains 3.5 ng of estrogen, from an implanted beef animal (a beef animal given additional hormones) it is 5.1 ng of estrogen. One birth control pill delivers 35,000 ng of estrogen. In comparison, a woman would have to eat 3,000 pounds of beef daily to get the same amount of hormones through meat that is found in birth control!

– Growth enhancing technologies (i.e. growth hormones) reduce the environmental impact of beef by 10.7%! More specifically, 4.2 tonnes of feed, 1 acre of land, and 22,722 gallons of water per 800 pound carcass and reduced if growth enhancement technologies are used.

– The extra beef produced as a result of using beta-agonists and implants on a single carcass with supply seven children with school lunches for an entire year!

All foods and food systems can be sustainable. Sustainability is best achieved by optimizing efficiency across the entire food and agriculture chain. Technology has allowed beef farmers/ranchers to produce more beef using less resources.

What other questions do you have about sustainability? I have also written about it here.

cow-calf pairs

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Dr. Lindsay can also be found on:

– Website (http://food.unl.edu/ag-and-food)
– Twitter/Instagram (agwithdrlindsay)
– Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/agwithdrlindsay)
– Pinterest (Lindsay Chichester-Medahunsi)

Sensitive Issues Training-Engage

Jenny does a great job explaining the Engage Training and shared values messages from the conference we hosted. In the days to come I will share with you some of the information provided by Specialists on topics such as sustainability, carbon footprints, green house gas emissions, biotechnology, and more.

JenREESources's Extension Blog

Many of us have been there…we’ve been asked a question in which the answer can be deemed controversial because the topic is based on emotion and beliefs.  How do we respond?  Do we get caught up in the emotion and passion of the issue and try to force our beliefs on others?  Do we shy away or try to avoid an answer altogether by remaining silent?

Last week’s Sensitive Issues Media and Communications Training was developed to help all of us through these situations.  It was a remarkable experience working with an amazing group of ladies, all passionate about food, but looking at food from a variety of perspectives and taking an issues-based approach in developing our team.  Our team was comprised of a livestock expert, a manure expert, two food and nutrition experts, a communication’s expert, and myself from a crop production perspective.  Special thanks to Dr. Chuck Hibberd…

View original post 595 more words

Happy National Sibling Day!

Today is National Sibling Day. My sister and I are in the same career (Extension), which is a lot of fun because we can not only bounce ideas off of each other, but when we travel to various meetings and national conferences we can be roommates!

sister-Final
No, we are not twins… But we do get asked that a lot.

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Dr. Lindsay can also be found on:

– Website (http://food.unl.edu/ag-and-food)
– Twitter/Instagram (agwithdrlindsay)
– Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/agwithdrlindsay)
– Pinterest (Lindsay Chichester-Medahunsi)

Meat, poultry, and eggs: What does the USDA test for? Fun Fact Friday

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) just released the annual U.S. National Residue Program for Meat, Poultry, and Egg Products, a.k.a. the “Blue Book” which summarizes the process that the Food Safety Inspection Service (FSIS) will use to sample meat, poultry, and egg products in 2015 for chemical contaminants of public health concern (i.e. pesticides, hormones, heavy metals, antibiotics, etc.). The chemical compounds tested for include approved and unapproved veterinary drugs, pesticides, and environmental compounds.

Not only is testing done on meat and eggs raised/grown in the U.S., but also on imported goods. However, the testing is different and somewhat limited on imported products (page 9 for more details).

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Dr. Lindsay can also be found on:

– Website (http://food.unl.edu/ag-and-food)
– Twitter/Instagram (agwithdrlindsay)
– Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/agwithdrlindsay)
– Pinterest (Lindsay Chichester-Medahunsi)