Ag notes, March 14

Published 8:16 am Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Protect poultry from bird flu 

Recently a highly pathogenic strain of avian influenza, H7, appeared on a large poultry farm in Tennessee by way of migratory ducks and geese. Currently no birds in Kentucky are infected, however, all poultry producers should take precautions and stay aware.  The H7 virus is a North American strain that is of wild lineage, meaning waterfowl could be a source of it. Since this is the season for waterfowl to migrate north in the Mississippi flyway, there will be an increased presence of migratory ducks and geese in Kentucky.

Poultry producers need to be aware of waterfowl in the area. You should avoid these migratory birds and their droppings. Think about lakes, farm ponds, wooded areas, golf courses and parks in your area. Always wear clean footwear and clothing after you have been in these types of environments before taking care of your poultry.

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Remember, the strain in Tennessee is highly contagious to poultry but is not to humans or pets.

Follow the FLU method to prevent avian flu in your birds.

F — Flock observation: Early detection is important so make sure to daily observe flocks and note changes in appearance, behavior, and drinking and eating habits.

L — Limit traffic: Contaminated clothing and equipment can spread avian influenza between poultry premises. Be sure to keep a log of visitors and vehicles on your farm. Be aware of places visitors may have had contact with birds or their droppings such as hunting lands, ponds, pet stores, zoos and parks. Visitors can accidently bring disease to the farm. It’s a good idea to have visitors and workers put on clean boots to help stop disease from spreading.

U — Unwanted critters: avian influenza can be spread through the feces and bodily fluids of infected birds, so keep poultry from coming into contact with wild birds. It’s a good idea to keep areas mowed around poultry houses and coops to control wild birds and rodents. Keep all other animals out of the chicken house. You should isolate new or returning birds from the rest of the flock for at least 30 days.

Signs of avian influenza can also be signs of common poultry ailments, but there are differences, because highly pathogenic avian influenza is always fatal. Symptoms include sudden death; little to no appetite or energy; little to no egg production; soft or deformed eggs; nasal discharge; coughing, sneezing or breathing difficulty; swelling around the head, neck and eyes; purple discoloration; loss of muscle control; drooping wings; twisting of the head and neck; inability to move and diarrhea. Birds may have the disease for three to seven days before they show signs, and death can occur between 24 and 48 hours after the first sign.

The University of Kentucky Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory will test birds for a fee. The UK VDL and the Murray State University Breathitt Veterinary Lab are both certified through the National Animal Health Laboratory Network to handle bird flu cases.

For more information, contact the Boyle County Cooperative Extension Service.

Jerry Little is County Extension Agent for Agriculture/Natural Resources.