Some of the Iowa poultry producers who’ve had to kill their birds because their flocks have been hit by avian flu say they can’t get consistent answers from state and federal officials as to when they can put birds back in their barns. The poultry producers say they’re also getting conflicting information about disposal of the dead birds.

Rod Parker’s flock of turkeys in Cherokee County was hit in early May.

“Basically, they were healthy up until that day. We couldn’t tell anything was going on until that morning where we noticed some increased mortality in one of our barns,” Parker says.

Parker’s facilities were within a quarantine zone at the time, as bird flu had struck another facility in the area. Parker, who serves on the Iowa Turkey Federation Board, attended a town hall meeting about bird flu in Sioux Center this weekend. All of the turkeys in his five buildings have been killed and are composting inside the barns, under about 20 inches of ground up corn stalks. The temperature inside those compost piles is being checked daily.

“We’ve got to get up to 130, 135 for five consecutive days,” Parker says. “And that’s an average.”

Parker says federal officials tell him it could be at least six months before he can “repopulate” his facilities with new birds.

“Hopefully shorter than that, but I think it’s going to kind of depend on when the last site comes up positive and the waiting period after that,” Parker says. “I think that’s the big game and possibly, maybe by then they’ll have it figured out how it travels or what the source is of the contamination or the virus in general.”

Parker believes the virus is airborne and the strong spring winds helped it spread throughout northwest Iowa. Parker was one of about 120 people who attended three meetings about bird flu on Saturday that were organized by U.S. Senator Joni Ernst, although she was only able to attend the meeting in Sioux Center due to the senate voting schedule.

(Reporting by Dennis Morrice, KLEM, Le Mars)