Iowa Turkey Federation president says bird flu strain tougher than 2015’s

MANSON — Iowa Turkey Federation president Brad Moline says the variant of bird flu that’s circulating in the U-S appears tougher than the one that hit the poultry industry in 2015 — but he says stepped up biosecurity at poultry operations is preventing the virus from spreading like it did six years ago.

“In 2015, it disappeared in June. Warm temperatures came and it was gone. From 2022-2023 warm temperatures haven’t necessarily stopped it. It doesn’t follow the fall bird migration or the spring bird migration,” Moline says, “so it’s been totally different.”

The outbreak, though, has not impacted the supply of turkeys for this Thanksgiving. More turkeys were raised in the U-S this year than in 2021. The price of Thanksgiving turkey is down more than five-and-a-half percent from last year according to the Farm Bureau. If the outbreak of highly pathogenic avian influenza continues, though, the price and availability of turkey may be impacted in the new year. There are at least 30 outbreaks of highly pathogenic avian influenza in 16 states right now.  “The whole industry is on edge again, there’s no question about it,” he says. “…Folks on our farm and many other farms in the state of Iowa follow strict biosecurity protocol and do everything we possibly can to keep that disease out of our farms.”

Moline’s turkey operation is near Manson, on the border of Calhoun and Pocahontas counties and it had a bird flu outbreak in 2015. Moline says state and federal government officials have eliminated red tape and there’s a speedier process of euthanizing infected birds now.  “From that, you have stopped the spread from farm to farm,” Moline says.

Wild birds like geese are thought to be major spreaders of the virus to confinements and backyard flocks. However, the number of avian influenza cases in the wild bird population appears to be dropping according ot the USDA. It could be a sign wild birds are developing immunity to the virus and may be contributing to a reduction in bird flu cases this year.