Avian Flu and What It Means to You

The agriculture news that has caught everyone’s attention the last several days has been the identification of avian flu (AI) in Jefferson County. There’ve been a lot of conversations and phone calls inquiring about the event, requesting information on AI and curious about the impact, both now and in the future. Poultry, both large and small flocks, are important to Jefferson County and its residents.

Since December 2014, the US Department of Agriculture has confirmed cases of highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) H5 in 13 states, including Wisconsin, and particularly for us, Jefferson County. The states are located in the Pacific, Central and Mississippi flyways (or migratory bird paths). Migratory waterfowl are suspected to be the carriers of the virus, though they do not show signs of illness.

It is important to note that poultry products, meat and eggs found at your grocery store are safe to eat. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) considers the risk to people from these HPAI H5 infections to be low. No human cases of these HPAI H5 viruses have been detected in the United States. Many avian influenza strains show little or no visible signs of illness and pose no threat to public health.

The many strains of avian influenza virus can cause varying degrees of identifiable illness in poultry. Virus strains can travel in wild birds without them appearing sick. Domestic poultry, such as chickens, turkeys, pheasants, quail, ducks and geese can also be infected. Birds raised in backyard or hobby flocks and on large-scale farms are equally susceptible. The virus is found in feces, saliva and respiratory secretions. Infection is spread through direct contact with infected birds, contaminated objects/equipment and through the air in short distances.

The state and federal response to the disease outbreak includes quarantine, eradication, regional monitoring, disinfecting and testing. The effective response in Wisconsin will use the tool known as Premise Registration. This is a mandatory program of self-reporting the species of animals that are kept on farms. These records are used in situations like the outbreak in Jefferson County. Farm families with any number of animals who are properly registered with the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection (DATCP) will be contacted to receive up-to-date information and testing services.

Livestock premises means that any location where livestock congregate – family farm, hobby farm, backyard poultry flocks, veterinary clinics, markets, livestock feedlots, livestock dealers and haulers. When registered the location gets a unique number. This is a confidential process. The mandatory livestock premise registration’s goal is to be able to trace livestock movements within 48 hours in case of an animal disease outbreak. It is important to find where an infection originated and what animals have been exposed to limit the spread. If you are not registered and you have animals, you should be.

Many smaller poultry producers within the Jefferson County quarantine area have already had their flocks tested. There are additional steps that you can take to protect your flock; often called biosecurity.

Biosecurity will help reduce the risk of spreading disease from sick birds to healthy ones. Just like washing your hands with soap and water, these practices are designed to limit disease transfer. These ideas can also be used by anyone with animals.

  • Keep your distance – Restrict access to your property and keep your birds away from other birds.
  • Keep it clean – Clean and disinfect cages and poultry equipment. Vehicle tires may also carry the virus in manure.
  • Designate shoes and clothing for work with your flock. Wash clothing after visits to other farms before working with your birds. Use disinfectants correctly.
  • Don’t bring disease home – Buy birds (animals) from reputable sources and keep new birds separated for at least 30 days.
  • Don’t borrow disease – Do not share any equipment or supplies with neighbors or other bird owners. If you must borrow something, disinfected it before use.
  • Know the warning signs – Early detection can help stop the spread of disease. While checking your birds frequently, look for lower feed consumption, coughing and sneezing, fewer eggs, closed eyes or swollen combs.
  • Report sick birds – If your birds are sick or dying, immediately call DATCP at 1-800-572-8981.

All poultry flocks, large and small, within 10 km/6.2 miles from the infection site are quarantined until further notice. There is to be no movement of live birds or poultry products, including eggs from any flock with in the quarantine area. The Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection is monitoring the disposal, cleanup and disinfecting of the infected site. Flock owners within the quarantine zone will be notified when restrictions are lifted. At last report, there were no new infections within our area.

Sources of information include: UW-Extension; Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection; US Department of Agriculture; Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service.

Additional Informational Websites:

Corn smut has been showing up in silage around the county.  Although unsightly, this fungal disease is not a concern for feeding – it does not produce a mycotoxin.  Research has also shown that smut does not reduce palatability.  It seems that drought stress has caused this increase in smut, hopefully not a concern for next year.

Interested in planting alfalfa after silage?  Planting date is important – check out this publication.

Winter wheat – Check out the 2012 UW wheat variety trial results.  And remember the optimum planting date is Sept 15 to Oct. 1, planting too early increases the risk of Barley Yellow Dwarf disease and can result in too much top growth going into the winter.

Farmer to Farmer – this website can be used by farmers to buy or sell feed.

Crop insurance considerations when growing emergency forages

Jefferson County Agriculture Newsletters

Spring 2015 Ag Newsletter

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