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Turkeys Back in Barns After Bird Flu

Photo by Amy Mayer
Grant Moline raises turkeys with his brother and their dad near Manson. They are the first bird flu-infected farm in Iowa to bring birds back after disinfecting.

Farmers have reached a milestone in the recovery from the massive avian flu outbreak last spring. Birds are back in the barns at the Moline family turkey farm in Manson.

Brad Moline says his farm had a few advantages when it came to disposing of turkey carcasses and ridding his barns of the flu virus. For one, he says, they became infected late in the outbreak, on May 19, 2015. By then, Moline says, some of the kinks in the reporting process had been worked out.

Credit Photo by Amy Mayer
Photographed through the glass pane of a window, these young turkeys are the first ones to be returned to an Iowa farm where bird flu broke out this spring.

“We weren’t forced to be delayed for any reason by the U.S. government or the Iowa government,” Moline said. “The second thing is, we have a unique advantage on this farm, and probably the most important reason, is on this farm we do all of our own work.”

Moline says that means they had the equipment and personnel needed to get the barns cleaned and disinfected quickly. They also had the space to compost carcasses on-site.

Officials from the United States and Iowa departments of agriculture celebrated with Moline at his farm this week. At the same event, they acknowledged mistakes were made in handling the massive outbreak across the Midwest. Jack Shere of the USDA’s Animal Plant Health Inspection Service says the important thing is to use the experience to prepare for the future.

“We’re fixing those mistakes for the fall,” Shere said. “We know that this disease is devastating. We know that the faster we can go in and euthanize those birds, the less spread we’ll have. We know that the better biosurveillance and testing that we have, the quicker that we’ll get in there, eliminate the birds and prevent spread.”

Shere says the priority when a barn gets infected is to contain and then eradicate the virus without putting farmers out of business. He says USDA has developed a response plan in the event the flu comes back this fall and he expects that to be approved and made public soon.

More than 38 million birds were lost during the massive flu outbreak this year. The hardest hit states were Iowa, Nebraska and Minnesota.