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Indiana Poultry: Opportunity and Challenge Abound

Ranked as first in the nation for commercial duck production, second in production of layer and table eggs and third for turkeys raised, Indiana is home to a large population of America’s poultry. That means that poultry owners, who own small to large flocks, are challenged with widespread Avian influenza virus (AIV) outbreaks.

AIV infects wild and domestic bird species and spreads through manure, vehicles, water and potentially other methods. Unfortunately, highly pathogenic subtypes are often fatal and flocks need to be depopulated to stop the spread. AIV was first detected in Indiana in a commercial turkey facility in Dubois County in January 2016 and again in February 2022.

Denise Derrer Spears, Indiana State Board of Animal Health (BOAH) communication director, says Kenneth Eck, Purdue Extension Dubois County agriculture and natural resources educator and Extension liaison for BOAH, and other Purdue Extension educators were especially helpful in reaching poultry farmers during recent outbreaks. “Purdue Extension echoed BOAH’s message about what to look for in small backyard flocks, and when and how to report possible outbreaks. Extension also helped us identify people
who own poultry so we could reach out proactively.”

In 2016, the U.S. Department of Agriculture Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service requested a Purdue Extension led manure management committee that eventually set the policy for composting infected birds. This policy is still used for AIV outbreaks across the U.S.

In what eventually become a template to use during the 2022 outbreak, Eck prepared neutral sites for animal disaster staff, including BOAH to work. He reached out to area farmers to keep them informed, connected the Indiana Department of Animal Health with local entities providing mental health resources, informed the general public on basic food safety questions related to poultry products and shared his response efforts with other educators across the state.

“When a farmer discovers a disease outbreak, it is stressful as they not only consider the financial repercussions but they also care about the animals affected. As an Extension Educator, I can talk to producers individually to help them understand the process better,” said Eck.

Purdue Extension has trained staff in all 92 Indiana counties to be responsive to agriculture emergencies like Avian influenza outbreaks.

- Kenneth Eck, Purdue Extension Dubois County agriculture and natural resources educator

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