A second turkey flock in Sanpete County has tested positive for highly pathogenic Avian Influenza (HPAI).
The USDA Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) confirmed the virus in a flock of more than 20,000 turkeys on Tuesday, July 19. That case was confirmed five days after HPAI was confirmed in another flock in Sanpete County with around 15,500 birds.
Bailee Woolstenhulme, public information officer for the Utah Department of Agriculture and Food (UDAF), said Tuesday the virus had been contained to the two farms, which were close to each other.
“Any turkey on each of those farms that wasn’t killed by the flu itself has to be disposed of in order to not have the disease spread,” Woolstenhulme said.
Michael Hansen, Sanpete County Farm Bureau president, said he hates to see the disease hit the turkey farmers who bring more revenue to the county than any other industry.
“Agriculture is the number one money maker in Sanpete County,” Hansen said. “With less than 1 percent doing it, it still brings in the most money.”
A local turkey producer, name withheld, said upper management and owners at Pitman Farms, owner of the Norbest turkey plant, which has contracts with nearly all turkey growers in the county, aren’t being very upfront with information.
“They aren’t telling us what farms have it, or the numbers lost; they are keeping very closed lips on it,” he said.
The Messenger made several attempts to contact Pitman Farms, but the company did not respond.
Woolstenhulme said the farmers who have lost their flocks will receive compensation through the Livestock Indemnity Program (LIP). LIP provides benefits to livestock producers for livestock deaths more than normal mortality. It is administered by the USDA Farm Service Agency.
“There are certain steps that each farmer will have to take” Woolstenhulme said, “and as long as they do it right and follow the rules, there is help for them.”
Thomas Blackham of Moroni, a turkey producer, said there will be some loss, but there are programs to help the farmers with these types of incidents.
“It won’t wipe us out completely, but it will leave a sting for a bit,” Blackham said.
State and federal officials are working with the farm owners to increase biosecurity measures and depopulate infected animals to prevent further spread of the disease. Domestic bird owners in the county are encouraged to keep a close eye on their flocks for symptoms of the disease.
Symptoms of HPAI include high death loss among flocks, nasal discharge, decreased appetite or water consumption and lack of coordination in birds.
If domestic birds are experiencing any of these symptoms, growers need to reach out to the state veterinarian office immediately. Early reporting and action will help to contain the disease.