Avian Influenza Mapping Plan to Prevent CA Outbreaks

High Pathogenic Avian Influenza Mapping Plan (HPAI) to Prevent Outbreaks in California

By Patrick Cavanaugh, Deputy Editor

In 2014 and 2015, the outbreak of High Pathogenic Avian Influenza (HPAI) caused unprecedented damage to the mid-western commercial poultry industry, requiring the depopulation of 48 million birds, particularly turkeys and laying hens. There were isolated cases in last autumn in California as well. Migrating birds, generally considered to be the source of HPAI, move throughout the state in their flyways this time of year.

USDA Pacific Flyway Map
USDA Pacific Flyway Map

Maurice Pitesky, a UC Cooperative Extension population health & reproduction assistant specialist with an appointment in poultry health and food safety, emphasized the importance of the flyways, “These global flyways that waterfowl use to move north and south and back again every single year are like freeways. And in those freeway lanes, different birds interface with each other.  So, we might have a Pacific flyway that covers California, but that Pacific flyway can interface with the East Asian and Australian flyway in the Northern Arctic. If you look at the genetics of the strains that were found in North America, especially in California, the genetics match some of the HPAI found in South Korea for example,” Pitesky said.

The Avian Influenza Mapping Plan is like overlaying maps of birds’ flying patterns for an early warning system for commercial operations. Pitesky observed, “We’re really just scratching the surface in how we can utilize maps with respect to surveillance and risk-mapping. For example, if I can locate on a map, where waterfowl, flooded rice fields, or wet fields are, and I can also determine where commercial poultry operations are, then I can start understanding which operations are at highest risk.”

I can triage my focus, outreach, and biosecurity efforts to those farms that are most closely located.

“New techniques are available so our national network of weather radar can actually be leveraged, and that data can be utilized remotely to understand in real time where waterfowl are hanging out. Eventually we can use that information to warn farmers in real time if there are migrating waterfowl near their farm,” he said.

Outlook on California Poultry

Bill Mattos: Outlook for California Poultry Industry

By Charmayne Hefley, Associate Editor

California’s poultry industry has a positive outlook for the coming year despite the recent outbreak of the highly pathogenic avian influenza plaguing the rest of the nation’s poultry industry. Bill Mattos, president of the California Poultry Federation, said the coming year will see chicken overtaking beef.

“We’re learning from a lot of economists that we are going to have an exciting year for poultry next year and into the future,” Mattos said. “It looks like chicken is taking over beef next year, and all of poultry will be ahead of the red meats. We love our beef and pork friends, but we’re passing them. It looks like the healthfulness of chicken and the capacity to grow locally—everything in California—is looking good for the poultry industry. And we’re excited. We think the chicken and turkey industries will have a good year coming up.”

And although the price of corn is still higher in California versus nationally, Mattos said this industry is still doing well. “We still pay about a dollar or more a bushel for corn in California. But prices are outstanding compared to what they were two or three years ago, so our companies are making some money.”

With the flyways, or bird migration, coming back this fall, Mattos said the California poultry industry is prepared with increased biosecurity on their farms and ranches to prevent an avian influenza outbreak. Mattos said, “It’s very important that we make sure our companies are locking down their facilities—keeping visitors off and maintaining a biosecurity that’s first in the nation—because any type of bird flu that could invade here and spread would devastate the marketplace.”

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California Poultry Federation