Turkeys. (IPR photo)

Iowa Turkey Federation executive director, Gretta Irwin, says the industry isn’t sure why there’s been a cluster of bird flu cases recently confirmed in several northwest Iowa turkey flocks.

Iowa’s turkey farmers really work diligently to protect their turkey flocks from wild birds. So the cases these last 11 days, really has us a little bit puzzled of what is happening with the birds that are migrating and the virus that they’re currently carrying,” Irwin says. More than 400-thousand turkeys have died or have been destroyed to prevent the spread of the disease. Wild birds can carry the virus and shed it to poultry.

A wildlife extension specialist says the vast majority of wild birds that migrate through Iowa have passed through. But there are some that stay for the winter. And a lot of birds fly through northwest Iowa on their migration south.

The virus has been found in commercial turkey flocks in Buena Vista, Cherokee, Ida and Sac counties this month. Tyson Foods owns a turkey processing plant in Storm Lake. The company didn’t respond to questions about how the loss of those turkeys is impacting processing there. But Iowa State University ag. economist Chad Hart says the loss of those turkeys creates a processing hole.

“We’re gonna see a cut in numbers here, not only here initially, but it’ll take a while for those numbers to build back up,” hart says.. The executive director of the Iowa Turkey Federation says the local impact is large. But it’s a small impact to turkey processing nationwide.

(By Katie Peikes, Iowa Public Radio)