SD Farmers Brace for Bird Flu Impact
Friday, April 8, 2022
At least two dozen states, including South Dakota, are seeing the bird flu virus quickly spread through commercial flocks on poultry producing farms. Amid the outbreaks, farms of all sizes are under the microscope.
State and federal officials say more than a dozen South Dakota counties have seen outbreaks of the avian flu, which has led to higher prices for products such as eggs.
Sherilyn Ortman, co-operator of Berrybrook Organics in Marion, said thankfully, they have not had a positive test among their flock. She added they are aware of the threat facing backyard operations like hers and are taking precautions.
"We're watching what goes into the barn," Ortman explained. "We're limiting access to the barn basically, and our birds are not going outside at this point."
Enhanced precautions took center stage after the 2015 bird flu outbreak. Some industry groups are deflecting criticism of the role factory farms play, pointing out wild birds can come in close range with flocks raised organically. Department of Natural Resources officials in affected states say the spread is linked to wild birds, such as ducks and geese.
But some activist groups say devastating outbreaks still occur within concentrated animal feeding operations, and regulators should limit their presence.
Patty Lovera, policy adviser at the Campaign for Family Farms and the Environment, said the nation has become too reliant on factory farms, which can be all it takes is for a virus to slip through and wreak havoc.
"We are putting so many animals often that are genetically identical together in one place," Lovera observed. "The disease just runs through very quickly and does a tremendous amount of damage"
Outside South Dakota, the bird flu has had a severe impact in several neighboring states, including Iowa and Minnesota. While there are still many unknowns, agriculture leaders at both the state and federal level have expressed confidence the outbreak will not be as extensive as the one in 2015.
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