Organic or backyard flock owners need to practice biosecurity

Increased biosecurity measures will help prevent spread of avian influenza, or bird flu

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(Farm and Dairy file photo)

COLUMBUS — Following a recent outbreak of avian influenza in the South, the Ohio Department of Agriculture has asked the USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service to allow organic poultry producers to temporarily confine their flocks and maintain organic certification.

This is a critical biosecurity measure requested by Ohio producers, and one ODA encourages all poultry producers, including small-scale backyard farmers, to implement.

The agency responded that such a temporary action is permitted and allowed as directed in the National Organic Program Handbook.

There have been no reported cases of avian influenza in Ohio, nor in Pennsylvania, in the recent outbreak.

“Preventing contact between flocks and wild birds is one of the most important steps any farmer can take to keep animals healthy and prevent the spread of avian influenza,” said Dr. Tony Forshey, state veterinarian.

Many Ohio farms have already taken aggressive actions to implement heightened biosecurity measures that protect poultry.

USDA recommends that Ohio producers work with their organic certifying agents to determine the proper method of temporary confinement.

Latest outbreak

About 18,000 chickens were destroyed at a northwest Georgia poultry farm after tests confirmed avian influenza in the flock, the first time the disease has been detected in commercial birds in the state.

Surveillance monitoring of all other commercial operations within a 6-mile radius found no further infections. State officials also planned to check all backyard breeders within 2 miles.

Poultry is the No. 1 agricultural sector in Georgia, with breeders and processing plants having an estimated annual $25.9 billion impact statewide.

High-pathogenic bird flu, a deadlier form of the illness, was detected this month in Tennessee, where 145,000 birds were destroyed. Overall, more than 225,000 birds have been euthanized because of the disease in the four Southern states.

In addition, the U.S. Department of Agriculture said earlier this month a flock of 84,000 turkeys had been confirmed with a low-pathogenic bird flu virus in Wisconsin.

The viruses in the current outbreaks are different from the high-pathogenic virus that resulted in the loss of nearly 50 million birds in the Midwest chicken egg and turkey industry in 2015.

Watch your birds

All producers are urged to monitor their flocks for signs of illness and implement strict biosecurity measures. The safety of poultry and eggs for food consumption is not affected.

If any Ohio producers see clinical signs of illness, contact a veterinarian or the Ohio Department of Agriculture, Division of Animal Health at 614-728-6220. In Pennsylvania, contact the Bureau of Animal Health & Diagnostic Services within the Pa. Department of Agriculture, at 717-772-2852.

(©2017 Farm and Dairy. All rights reserved. AP contributed to this report.)

 

 

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