and turkey farmers in the Midwest could use some extra love right now.
The last few months have been stressful for all of us, but especially for those directly affected by Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza (bird flu.)
I know that many of my readers don’t know a turkey farmer in real life. I try, through my blog, to put a “face” on turkey farming. And your support has meant so much to me – the comments on my facebook page have been so great. Everyone that has said they’re praying for us…you have no idea what that means to us.
But, we have lucked out so far. We don’t have bird flu on our farm right now. So just as I asked on facebook last week, please pray for those who haven’t been as lucky, whose farms have been infected by avian influenza. You may not know them, and their faces may not be familiar to you, but they are hurting and need our support.
Iowa’s turkey farms are all family farms, and around 1/5 of those families have been directly impacted by the bird flu outbreak. The same is true for Minnesota, which raises more turkey than any other state. Roughly 1/5 of their turkey farm families have also been affected, bringing the total to more than 120 turkey farmers in the two states. Some of the families live on century farms, and have been raising turkeys for generations. Some of them, like us, have young children and plan on raising turkeys for decades. All of them have been devastated by the outbreak.
Q & A about Avian Influenza (Bird Flu)
I’ve been getting a lot of questions about bird flu and how it’s affecting farmers. Here’s a quick run-down of the basics.
What happens when a farm gets bird flu?
All the birds on the farm are euthanized using USDA approved methods to prevent the disease from spreading and prevent the flock from suffering. On turkey farms, the birds are then composted inside the barns. Composting heats the bird carcasses enough to kill the virus.
Is there insurance for poultry farmers for this kind of thing?
No. There is no insurance that covers poultry disease losses. The government pays an “indemnity” for healthy birds that have to be euthanized, but that only covers 70-80% of the farmers costs for that flock.
Is there a vaccine for HPAI?
There is no vaccine that matches this strain of HPAI. And even if there were, there are several barriers to overcome before farmers could begin using it. (Here’s an article about the vaccine.)
What happens next?
We don’t know. The timeline for “repopulation” is unknown. Many farmers are facing 9 months or more without turkeys (and income.)
How is it being spread?
Again, we don’t know. We know that the outbreak started with wild waterfowl, who carry the disease but don’t show any symptoms.
Can you do anything to prevent it?
We are trying our hardest to increase biosecurity. Clean boots, clean vehicles…we try not to let any germs enter our buildings. But the virus just keeps spreading. Scientists and farmers are baffled.
Everyone in our county is testing their flock 3x a week, to try and catch an outbreak as soon as possible. Farmers are also sending their flocks to market early, in order to save them from the disease.
Why are only commercial farms being affected?
Backyard flocks are also at risk. In fact, about 1/10th of the outbreaks have been in backyard flocks. (More Bird Flu Myths)
Can humans get bird flu?
There have been no human infections from this strain of the virus. It’s possible that it could mutate, but even then, only people with close contact with infected birds would be at risk. Public health officials are closely monitoring employees/owners of infected farms, but so far, no one has contracted the virus.
Should you quit eating turkey?
Nope! Infected flocks to do not enter the food chain, so there is no food safety risk to consumers. We’d love for you to eat MORE turkey to show your support!
Speaking of eating turkey – here are a few of my favorite turkey recipes for summer.
Do you have more questions about avian influenza? Or another favorite turkey recipe? Please share in the comments! And remember to join me in praying for the turkey industry and the farmers affected!