Tuesday, May 28, 2024

Pioneering Techniques to Combat Avian Flu: The Role of Lasers and Inflatable Dancers in Protecting Poultry

WASHINGTON — In an effort to combat the highly pathogenic avian flu, Loren Brey, a Minnesota-based poultry grower, recently discovered the effectiveness of unconventional methods like lasers and inflatable dancers in safeguarding his egg-laying turkeys from the deadly virus.

Last November, a distressing sight of several deceased hens greeted Brey at his farm, prompting a drastic loss of nearly half his flock within a week. With the onset of spring, as his turkeys resumed egg production, Brey adopted an innovative approach to prevent further outbreaks. He installed lasers atop his barns, which emit green beams of light to deter wild birds, potential carriers of the virus.

Across the United States, as migratory birds return north, both commercial and backyard poultry keepers are bracing for potential outbreaks of avian flu. Despite the disease impacting a relatively small number of the nearly 10 billion poultry sold annually, the quest for effective prevention strategies has intensified. Farmers are now utilizing an array of deterrents, including drones, air horns, and decoy predators, demonstrating a proactive approach in the ongoing battle against this infectious disease.

The urgency is felt more acutely by larger industrial farms and those with substantial egg-laying hen populations. Dr. Carol Cardona, an avian health expert at the University of Minnesota, notes the high susceptibility of turkeys to the virus, especially those located along migratory paths of wild waterfowl.

The implications of an infection are severe, as federal policies mandate the culling of entire flocks if even a single bird tests positive, leading to significant losses. Since February 2022, over 90 million birds have been culled across more than 1,100 flocks in the U.S. due to this lethal strain of avian flu.

Farmers like Christian Alexandre in California have also adopted the laser system, though challenges persist with birds adapting to the lasers’ patterns. Despite setbacks, the persistence of avian flu prompts continual adjustments in farm safety protocols and biosecurity measures.

Experts stress the importance of rigorous cleanliness, minimizing farm visits, and isolating new or returning birds as key strategies in flu prevention. Yet, even with stringent biosecurity, the risk of avian flu breaching farm defenses remains a constant threat, as noted by several farmers who have experienced firsthand the challenges of managing and recovering from outbreaks.

The use of diverse and sometimes novel deterrents underscores the ongoing struggle and innovation within the agricultural community as they strive to protect their livelihoods and the nation’s food supply from the ever-present threat of avian flu.

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