Avian flu ravages Alberta poultry producers

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Alberta has now lost about 900,000 poultry, more than double the next closest province according to figures updated by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency Thursday afternoon.

The total is an increase of 300,000 since the last update a week ago.

Ontario is the second hardest hit country, with approximately 425,000 birds from 23 farms affected.

“It’s tough – it’s very tough,” said Jeff Notenbomer, a poultry producer outside Lethbridge.

His herd has not been affected, but he hears how difficult it has been from 23 Alberta farms across the province, a number that will likely continue to grow.

“My heart definitely goes out to any producer who has had to euthanize their herds, and they have to go through this lengthy process,” Notenbomer said.

“I know of some farms where they tested positive three four weeks ago, the birds were euthanized two three weeks ago and they haven’t started the composting process yet,” he said. .

EUTHANASIZING BIRDS

Once a case is detected, the CFIA takes control of the property, controlling what can come in and out of the farm. The federal agency then takes care of euthanizing the birds, using carbon dioxide, generally accepted as the most humane and efficient way to cull large flocks.

All the organic material used to care for the birds is then combined with the carcasses and composted. Once this is complete, cleaning begins, disinfection of barns and equipment.

It can take up to two or three months before a breeder can start rebuilding their herd.

The scattered pattern of infection suggests to inspectors that migrating wild birds are still the most likely cause of outbreaks.

This year’s strain of highly pathogenic bird flu has caused concern and damage around the world. While wild birds always have a certain amount in population, they have evolved over millennia to fight off infection. This year’s strain, however, leaves more wild birds dead. Some show signs of neurological symptoms such as head tremors.

It is hoped that warmer weather and the end of spring migration will lead to lower cases in Alberta.

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