MOUNT BRYDGES — With the spread of avian flu seeming to abate — with no new outbreaks reported in Ontario since May 18 — the process of bringing affected flocks back into production will take some time.
The Canadian Food Inspection Agency has identified 26 infected farm sites in the province since March 27 (based on the CFIA’s June 2 weekly count update showing no change in the stats). Of those, 20 farms had commercial flocks and most were in Southwestern Ontario. An estimated 474,000 Ontario birds have been destroyed and 1.9 million nationally as officials battle to control the virus. Ontario had four new commercial flock cases last month, in York Region, with the last recorded May 18.
Some producers with early identified cases are in the process of restocking their barns — though that doesn’t mark a return to actual production. It means going back to square one with young birds or chicks and having to play catch-up with the life-cycle stage of the previous flock.
In the case of egg-layers, those hens won’t start producing until they’ve reached 26 weeks old, Chicken Farmers of Canada spokesperson Lisa Bishop-Spencer said.
But before the replacement birds are brought in, the old birds have to be destroyed and their carcasses composted inside the barn for about six days, according to CFIA rules. The decomposition process creates enough heat to kill the pathogen. “There’s not much left of them after six days,” Bishop-Spencer said.
Once the pathogen-free compost is cleaned out and left on-farm, the owner proceeds to cleaning and disinfecting the barn, a process that may take a couple days or more and “varies greatly depending on the size of the premises and the type of poultry production,” according to a CFIA spokesperson. “Dry cleaning, wet cleaning and disinfection are required of barns, feeders, waterers, equipment and other areas of the site used for poultry production.”
After cleaning, the farmer can wait 14 days to begin restock or restock right-away but agrees to bird testing each day for up to 14 days.
In the meantime, poultry producers are still wringing their hands at the potential risk of becoming a late addition to the infected list, despite upped biosecurity measures.
“It’s been a big concern, that’s for sure,” said Mount Brydges broiler producer Becca Bakker.
“A lot of it had to do with the migratory birds, so once the migration is done, it should stabilize. It’s definitely concerning and something to be aware of from a biosecurity standpoint. But I think it’s too soon to say we can breathe a sigh of relief,” Bakker added.
Even as case numbers are dropping, continued concerns over the virus also prompted organizers of the National Poultry Show to cancel their event, which had been scheduled June 22-23 in London.
Grocery store supply has not been affected. There are 1,200 chicken meat producers, 430 egg producers and 160 turkey farms in Ontario.