GOSHEN, Ind. — We have a lot of poultry in this region. Between Elkhart, LaGrange, Noble and Kosciusko counties, our area has one of the largest concentrations of chickens and ducks in the United States. That’s why I get really concerned when I learn that a highly pathogenic form of avian flu, H5N1, was found in turkey flocks in Dubois County recently.
This is very serious stuff. When H5N1 is found, the Board of Animal Health draws a 10-kilometer (6.2 miles) circle around the farm, and checks all farms and hobby flocks inside that circle. They keep expanding the circle until they cannot find the infection. The birds are euthanized and buried, and the buildings are decontaminated. The control measures can even affect traffic patterns, as they do not want to spread the disease on cars, trucks or farm equipment. Biosecurity protocols like disposable boots, gloves and clothing become the rule.
Remember how foot-and-mouth disease shut down portions of Great Britain in 2001? Six million cows, pigs and sheep were put down on about 2,000 farms. It took seven months to get under control. Years of work improving genetics on farms went down in weeks. The economy in that region suffered for years, estimated at $11 billion dollars in losses ($17 billion in today’s dollars). Some diseases are just that serious.
We do not want this to happen in our community or in our poultry industry. It would be devastating. Taking biosecurity measures to a new level now is critically important to fight diseases we have now, and preventing the diseases that are lurking outside the barn door.
Think about the many ways an infection could enter your facility, and set up standards to protect your business.
- Keep visitors to a minimum
- Limit visits to other farms
- Keep pets and wild animals out of the building
- Practice sound rodent control
- Avoid contact with non-commercial poultry and wild birds
- Inspect your flock daily
- Provide good ventilation
- Dispose of manure and litter properly
- Keep the area around your building and feed bins clean
- Be sure egg pallets are cleaned before they return to the farm
- Find out where delivery vehicles have been and if they were cleaned before allowing them onto your farm.
- Dispose of dead birds properly
If you have poultry, whether it is a few birds in the backyard or large houses full of chickens or ducks, it is a good idea to take biosecurity to a new level soon.
— Jeff Burbrink, Extension Educator, Purdue Extension Elkhart County