DUBOIS COUNTY — A second case of avian flu has been detected in Dubois County. Indiana Board of Animal Health officials say after all of the commercial turkey flocks in the just over 6 mile control zone around the infected farm were tested the first time there were no reported cases. But a grower now at a nearby farm noticed his turkeys were not drinking and had the flock tested. Preliminary test results were positive for the avian flu. Further testing is underway to determine if the 26,000 birds in the flock will have to be destroyed.

That further complicates things for area turkey producers. The BOAH has ordered an additional surveillance area that extends an additional 6 miles beyond the original zone. Officials say there is no quarantine in the expanded area but growers there will be subject to additional testing.

Nathan Wagler, who along with his two brothers operate a turkey farm that includes 20 barns and 200,000 birds south of Montgomery, says bio-security is always something they are working on.

“The protocol we have from Farbest is pretty demanding,” he said. “There was an outbreak about 15 years ago and we are still under some pretty stringent rules. We disinfect every time before we enter the barn.”

Wagler says the thing with the bird flu is that often growers do not recognize it until it is in the flock.

“We try to do what we can to make sure they are healthy,” he said. “Sometimes you don’t know you have the bird flu until they begin dying.”

Wagler has been in the agriculture business for a long time and even though he is not going to worry about the bird flu outbreak in Dubois County, he is aware of what the impact could be.

“In the big picture, if this starts to spread, this could be devastating,” he said. “We are trying to be proactive and deal with whatever issues this presents. It is a major concern and it puts you on edge. But I don’t want to overdo it. I don’t want to turn it into COVID for turkeys.”

The avian flu is not harmful to people, but is deadly to turkeys and holds the potential, if it goes out of control, to deal a major blow to Daviess County’s farm community.

“The turkey industry is very important to agriculture in our area,” said Daviess County Purdue Extension Educator Luis Santiago. “A situation where the bird flu starts moving through our flocks would be detrimental.”

Santiago points out that the impact of the turkey business reaches throughout the community and much of southwest Indiana.

“Daviess County is the number two turkey producer in Indiana, right behind Dubois County,” he said. “There are not just the impacts to the growers, but there are thousands of jobs tied to turkey production in the area. That is not to mention the jobs in the related businesses like trucking. There are even multiple mills in the area that take in grain to produce turkey feed.”

The BOAH says the outbreak was first reported Feb. 9 when a producer noticed around 100 dead birds in his flock and much of the rest of the flock acting lethargic. Testing showed the presence of HPAI or avian influenza. That led to the destruction of 29,000 birds.

Getting rid of those diseased birds now has Governor Eric Holcomb involved in the situation. Officials have decided the best way to remove the birds is to compost them on the farm site. This week Holcomb issued a waiver of hours for truck drivers to haul composting materials to the farm and get the process started.

State officials say the farms in the quarantine area will continue to be tested weekly until the BOAH determines the situation to be safe. That is expected to continue for several weeks. Meanwhile, they are checking in with the owners of smaller flocks of chickens, ducks and turkeys— known as hobby flocks—in the area to make certain the avian flu has not hit there.

Officials are encouraging other producers in southwestern Indiana to keep an eye on their flocks for possible avian flu symptoms and to report them to the BOAH.

“I have my fingers crossed we can crush it out,” said Wagler. “Its also all about awareness. I am pretty convinced that the community of turkey growers can come together and whip this.”
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