Minnesota Estimates Avian Flu Losses as Further US Outbreaks Confirmed

US - Five more outbreaks of H5N2 highly pathogenic avian influenza have been confirmed by the US Department of Agriculture (USDA), and the University of Minnesota has estimated economic losses in the state at $310 million.
calendar icon 19 May 2015
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The latest outbreaks bring the official count from the USDA Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) to over 36.9 million birds.

The five new outbreaks, all on commercial chicken farms, were:

  • Iowa, Buena Vista county - 903,700 commercial chickens;
  • Nebraska, Dixon county - 1,600,000 commercial chickens;
  • Iowa, Plymouth county - 100,000 commercial chickens;
  • Iowa, Sioux county - 240,000 commercial chickens;
  • Iowa, Sioux county - 272,300 commercial chickens.

The four new outbreaks in Iowa bring the number of confirmed H5N2 avian flu detections there up to 49, amounting to 26,606,500 birds affected.

Iowa's Department of Agriculture also announced four probable (unconfirmed) outbreaks of avian flu in Sac and Sioux counties on Monday.

The Department has quarantined the premises and once the presence of the disease is confirmed, all birds on the property will be humanely euthanised to prevent the spread of the disease.

The four suspected outbreaks occurred on two turkey farms, one backyard chicken flock and one backyard duck flock, which all experienced increased mortality.

By comparison, this is only the second confirmed detection of the disease in Nebraska, with only 3,300,000 birds affected there.

Minnesota, which has detected 81 outbreaks, has not reported any new confirmed outbreaks since 11 May. However, the University of Minnesota has published a report estimating economic losses in the state at $310 million and counting.

The Extension analysis put losses of poultry production, both turkeys and egg-laying chickens, at $113 million as of May 11.

"These projections represent where we stand as of May 11," said Brigid Tuck, Extension senior analyst, who led the study.

"If the virus affects more farms, as we have seen since May 11, the impact levels will rise. If barns stay empty for another cycle of poultry production, these numbers could potentially double."

Poultry production and processing is a $3 billion industry in the state; overall, poultry growers represent about 7 per cent of the agricultural and forestry economy. The study focuses on the state's 80 non-metro counties, where nearly all poultry production occurs.

Among Extension's other findings:

  • The industry that produces feed for poultry and other animals will be hardest hit by poultry production losses. For every $1 million of lost poultry production, nearly $230,000 of demand for poultry feed is lost.
  • For every 100 jobs lost due to reduced poultry processing, 9 are in the trucking industry.
  • Other job losses related to poultry processing are 6 and 7 per 100 jobs, respectively, in wholesale trade and specialised poultry processing.

The idling of 100 poultry processing jobs will result in an estimated 210 jobs being affected across all industries.

Economic losses per 100 poultry processing jobs impacted are estimated at $44.8 million, including $9.3 million in labour income.

Researchers noted that insurance and government compensation for producers may help alleviate losses for poultry producers, though the impact on other industries will not be offset.

"We know avian influenza is devastating, emotionally and financially, for growers and those whose businesses are connected to the poultry industry.

"These early estimates show its impact on farmers, Main Street, the industry and the state," said economist Kent Olson, associate dean of Extension's Center for Community Vitality.

"This analysis is an initial look at the short- to immediate-term picture to give decision-makers context. We recommended a more detailed analysis take place once the avian influenza outbreak reaches a conclusion."

Other states affected by the bird flu outbreaks include North Dakota, South Dakota, Indiana, Wisconsin, and others.

You can view the full Minnesota report by clicking here.

Further Reading

Visit our bird flu page by clicking here.

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