Avian flu’s impact on poultry farms

FILE - Chickens walk in a fenced pasture at an organic farm in Iowa on Oct. 21, 2015. Iowa...
FILE - Chickens walk in a fenced pasture at an organic farm in Iowa on Oct. 21, 2015. Iowa agriculture officials said Monday, Oct. 31, 2022, that another commercial egg farm in the state has been infected with bird flu, the first commercial farm case identified since April when a turkey farm was infected. The latest case is in Wright County in north central Iowa, housing about 1.1 million chickens. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall, File)(Charlie Neibergall | AP)
Published: Nov. 6, 2022 at 10:03 PM MST
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GRAND JUNCTION, Colo. (KKCO) - Here’s a typical morning at Sunshine Mesa Farm. The owner Michelle Livingston is up by 8 a.m., tending to her 500 chickens. “I go to our barn area, and I open all the doors, I do a wellness check on everybody, and restock food and water if necessary,” said Livingston.

Livingston is keeping a close eye on her chickens and turkeys after the highly pathogenic avian influenza or bird flu was detected in Colorado this spring. “We’ve watched kind of its flow, and we do take basic biosecurity precautions; we do keep a close flock,” said Livingston.

A staggering 4.7 million domestic poultry were killed in the state due to the flu. “Usually, the virus does not cause mortality or sickness in wild birds, but that is different with the strain we’re seeing this year. We’re actually seeing mortality rates in wild birds,” said Dr. Maggie Baldwin, the state veterinarian.

She says this virus strain has never been seen in the state until this spring. “This is now the largest outbreak we’ve seen in our country.”

Poultry can get sick if infected wild birds come into contact with their feed. “We are anticipating that we’re kind of in the upswing of what we’re going to see this fall for cases across the country; what that looks like exactly here in Colorado, we don’t know,” said Baldwin.

The bird flu is impacting producers tremendously, says Baldwin. Farms have euthanized their entire flocks. “They lose all of their production for months at a time, and it takes them a long time to get to a period of restocking.”

Consumers, you can see it in the egg prices and potential low supply of turkeys for Thanksgiving. “Egg prices have gone up both due to inflation and due to the, you know, a lot of chickens have died in Colorado, so we are affected a little bit by the economics of it all, and just demand is really, really high,” said Livingston.

“The turkey farms have been affected across the United States, more than 70% of the premises,” said Baldwin.

In Hotchkiss, Livingston hopes the bird flu stays farm away from her flock.

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