The first case of avian influenza was confirmed in Iowa almost one year ago. Within a few months, the disease had wiped out more than 34 million chickens and turkeys on 77 Iowa poultry operations.
Iowa Secretary of Agriculture Bill Northey says he’s hopeful we won’t see a repeat this year, but if we do, the state is better prepared.
“We’re recognizing that last year it was really tough to respond as fast as it came,” Northey says. “It was tough to respond as fast as we needed to to put birds down that were starting to get sick. The goal from U.S.D.A. and all of us now is to get the birds put down within 24 hours of a confirmation.”
Northey says one major change that’s been implemented is in how state and federal agriculture officials interact with owner/operators where avian flu has been confirmed.
“We will dedicate somebody from the Department of Ag and Land Stewardship to work directly with that farmer,” Northey says. “That person won’t change through the whole process. The U.S.D.A. has changed their process as well in how they will work with folks. There will be more continuity there instead of that constant churn that happened last time.”
Since last year’s outbreak, Northey says many of the state’s poultry farms that were impacted are back in full swing, especially the smaller operations. “Many of the bigger farms just can’t get pullets fast enough to refill a facility that’s got a million birds or 3 million birds or 5 million birds,” Northey says. “The ability to fill their barns with birds means some of them probably won’t be back at full capacity until the end of the year.”
It’s thought the disease was transmitted in large part by wild waterfowl, ducks and geese, during their annual migration.
(Reporting by Dennis Morrice, KLEM, Le Mars)