The outbreak of bird flu in Iowa has the state looking at clearing out millions of birds in 8 facilities in 4 counties. Iowa Agriculture Secretary, Bill Northey, says they will kill the infected animals in a humane fashion.
“There’s several different processes. Often it involves a CO2 process where the birds that have not caught the disease and are not dead yet can be taken from the cages and put into a cart that has CO2, and then quickly die,” Northey says.
Once the animals are euthanized, Northey says there are many ways to dispose of them. “From burying them to composting them to potentially landfilling them or incinerating,” Northey says. “And it will depend on the site which one is used.” He says they will use whatever methods they need to take care of the animals. “In some cases on some of the large sites, we may use several to try and respond to that disease as quickly as we can,” Northey says.
Some 37,000 turkeys have already been destroyed and composted at the first site where the disease was confirmed in Osceola County. It may be some time before new birds can be put into the facility. “There will be a time once that compost is certified as clean and removed from the site that the building is disinfected. Then it will be up to the company and the farmer of when those birds will go back in,” Northey says. “But, we are definitely weeks away at least from that. And there certainly could be some hesitation from folks, you could imagine.”
Northey says producers will want to be sure the disease is gone before starting up an operation once again, and that’s why the whole process takes lots of time. “The depopulation — at least in the large layer sites — is going to be fairly complex. Even disinfection of the building is going to be fairly complex as well,” Northey says. He says there’s no way to put a set timeline on the whole process.
“We could certainly be well into months before a site could possibly be clean to the place that folks are willing to put birds back in,” according to Northey. “We’re are dealing with an area that we don’t know, and certainly a risk in putting birds in of wanting know that that site is completely clean.”
Northey says once a site has been decontaminated, then there’s still the matter of getting the birds to restart egg or turkey production. Getting the number of birds to bring the facilities back to the capacity they were at before the outbreak could take some time as well.