Even though bird flu is expected to hit Maryland this Spring, chicken farmers are dismissing the use of vaccines. This comes as a rather grim news for the US Department of Agriculture that invested funds towards the procurement of over 500 million anti-bird flu shots in order to circumvent the appearance of a bird flu outbreak, a phenomenon which occurred back in 2015.
Turkey farmers have accepted vaccination wholeheartedly, most likely due to the fact that this side of the industry was severely affected during last year’s outbreak, claiming the lives of millions of turkeys in the process. But the various farmers from the $48 billion poultry industry are extensively refraining from vaccine usage.
This stems from the fact that once vaccination is accepted in a farm, foreign importers see it as a hint towards bird flu being endemic in the region, cutting product purchases entirely for extended periods of time. In some cases, imports have been banned from certain farms for a couple of years, even though the outbreak was quelled immediately.
In 2015, egg laying operations were struck by a massive blow, with bird flu taking the lives of 50 million birds, with the total damage cost being estimated at $3.3 billion. The states which suffered the most after last year’s outbreak were Minnesota in regards to turkey production, Iowa with egg production and Nebraska as a whole.
The effects were clearly seen by the general public as well. Massive egg price surges and a severe shortage of turkeys during Thanksgiving affected everyone, not just the farmers.
Although most farms have already installed car wash facilities and other similar methods of quelling bird flu spread across multiple farms, the US Department of Agriculture is still urging farmers to opt for immunization. Several farms are already somewhat on edge due to the occurrence of 67 bird flu outbreaks in France.
In order to quell a potential outbreak, the US government has prepared teams to answer for 500 outbreak cases if they occur. This number is almost doubled in comparison to last year’s teams, a fact that might hint at the government’s belief that 2016 will bring forth more widespread outbreaks across the US.
Another reason why egg-laying poultry farms dismiss the vaccine is based on how these hens live much longer than usual birds that are raised for their meat, known as broiler chickens. Because booster shots have to be administered on a regular scale,egg-laying farms will require a boost in manpower, as well as facing an increase in bird injuries.
Although broiler chicken farms were completely avoided by bird flu, they still suffered from a shortage of product exports. Once the outbreak occurred in egg-laying farms, Russia, China and several other countries completely shut their borders against the import of US grown poultry, costing producers over $910 million.
Because bird flu is expected to hit Maryland in Spring, state officials are currently taking precautionary steps in order to circumvent outbreaks. Fortunately, the weather has remained relatively warm, making migratory birds stop from landing near farms, effectively putting a stop to the spread of bird flu. But this might not last long, making state officials urge farmers to immediately purchase vaccines in order to immunize their farms.