CSU webinar alerts poultry producers of HPAI, highlights niche poultry businesses
The Poultry Pathways webinar hosted by Colorado State University extension opened with talk of highly pathogenic H5N1 avian influenza (HPAI). Heather Reider, who serves as the CSU Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory Avian Health Coordinator said it is a serious concern for Colorado’s $21 million poultry industry.
Reider said the Avian Health Program runs avian influenza surveillance throughout the state, the National Poultry Improvement Plan, and the facility serves as the state’s diagnostic lab. The program is also responsible for education and outreach throughout the state, including testing at shows during county fairs and the Colorado State Fair. She said the NPIP came into existence in the 1930s after the poultry industry was brought to its knees by pullorum disease, caused by salmonella pullorum. The program was later extended to include testing and monitoring for other poultry diseases. The program currently offers testing and monitoring for salmonella pullorum (causative agent of pullorum disease), salmonella gallinarum (causative agent of fowl typhoid), mycoplasma gallisepticum, mycoplasma synoviae, mycoplasma meleagridis (for turkeys), and avian influenza. Reider said the diagnostic lab has tested about 8,000 birds for avian influenza in 2022. That number may sound low, she said, but avian influenza is a flock disease rather than an individual disease so, in essence, 8,000 flocks or premises have been tested.
In neighboring Nebraska, the Department of Agriculture in conjunction with the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Wildlife Services and USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service have confirmed the presence of highly pathogenic H5N1 avian influenza in a wild goose near Holmes Lake in Lincoln. This is the state’s first confirmed case of HPAI since 2015.
“While Nebraska has not seen HPAI in a backyard or commercial poultry flock within the state this year, the finding of this single goose adds Nebraska to a long list of states with confirmed cases of HPAI,” said State Veterinarian Dr. Roger Dudley. “Infected wild birds can carry the disease to new areas when migrating, so we encourage backyard poultry and commercial poultry flocks to continue to remain vigilant, practice good biosecurity and report sick or dying birds immediately.”
Symptoms of HPAI in poultry include: a decrease in water consumption; lack of energy and appetite; decreased egg production or soft-shelled, misshapen eggs; nasal discharge, coughing, sneezing; incoordination; and diarrhea. HPAI can also cause sudden death in birds even if they aren’t showing any other symptoms. HPAI can survive for weeks in contaminated environments.
The poultry industry in Colorado is comprised mostly of egg layers, as she said meat birds perform poorly at high altitude. With about 5.1 million egg layers, the state produces about 1.5 billion eggs annually.
Reider said Colorado is home to a high number of backyard poultry flocks as well as niche operations, free range meat bird growers, poultry for exhibition, and specialty birds and game birds.
One of the poultry producers on the webinar panel was Brandon Legg from Legg’s Landing and Legg’s Peafowl in Kansas City, Mo. Legg specializes in raising peafowl and, through genetics, breeds new peafowl colors and patterns. In 1980, he said there were five colors of peafowl and today there are over 20 colors and 200 varieties, many of which originated on the Legg’s farm.
Kristin Ramey owns Long Shadow Farm in Berthoud, Colo., and raises a number of types of livestock, including chickens, turkeys, ducks and quail for both meat and eggs. Ramey’s daughter, who is 12 years old, also shows poultry in the 4-H program. The meat birds raised on the farm are all processed on site and sold directly to consumers.
Amelia Macy is a 4-H member in Larimer County, Colorado, and is the author of Poultry Resource Handbook for 4-H Youth in Colorado, the official handbook for 4-H members enrolled in poultry projects. She raises and shows poultry, specializing in white Plymouth Rock bantams and black Rosecomb bantams. Macy also owns a small dove release business called Angel Releases and she breeds, raises and trains white homing pigeons for use in her business and for sale.
Tom Whiting rounded out the panel. His poultry operation, Whiting Farms, is based in Delta, Colo., on the Western Slope. He breeds rooster lines for their feathers which are sold to be used in fishing flies. He also raises poultry commercially and offers chicks for local pickup.
Whiting credits his education at land grant universities, including CSU, as well as the network of other breeders involved in poultry plumage genetics as important in his success. To be successful in a poultry genetics career, he recommends an undergraduate degree in poultry science and an internship with a poultry genetics business.
When he began, he said he purchased the equipment from a defunct mink ranch and was able to utilize the individual housing units for his roosters to protect them — and their long feathers — from fighting. He now has facilities he built that are environmentally controlled with light and ventilation controls.
Ramey said she was inspired by books, including Joel Salatin’s Pastured Poultry Profits, at the beginning of her farm’s meat bird operations, going so far as learning how to slaughter chickens based on the descriptions in the book that were accompanied by a few black and white photos. They moved into higher tech equipment with a scalder and plucker system that they continue to use.
Doing her own processing was a boon during COVID, and her ability to offer locally produced chicken to consumers served her well. Although rising input costs are affecting her retail prices, she said understanding her customer base is important. Understanding price points and embracing their places within niche markets, the panelists said are key to finding success with a small business within a large industry.
The Poultry Pathway series of webinars is available at https://rangemanagement.extension.colostate.edu/poultry_production/.
Tom Whiting — Fly-tying feather business, mounted chickens, other
Whiting Farms (Delta, Colo.)
Phone: (970) 874-0999
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