Avian Influenza

Waterfowl  Migration Flyways Have Poultry Industry on Guard

By Brian German, Associate Editor

We are at the peak of migrating bird traffic flying north to south, and poultry operations throughout California and the rest of the country are looking skyward with dread. The industry aims to detect all flyways as migrating birds are suspected of spreading Asian Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza (HPAI) A (H5N1) virus that devastated the poultry business last year throughout the Midwest with some lesser problems in California. In fact, more than 48 million birds, primarily turkeys and laying hens, were infected and had to be depopulated last year throughout the Midwest.

“These global flyways waterfowl use to move north and south and back again every year are basically like freeways,” said Maurice Pitesky, a Veterinarian and UC Cooperative Extension assistant specialist and UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine lecturer in Population Health & Reproduction. “And in those freeway lanes,” he continued, “different birds interface with each other. We have a Pacific flyway that covers California, which can interface with the East Asia and Australian flyways. If you look at the genetics found in North America, especially in California, the genetics match some of the HPAI found in South Korea.”

Locating birds in flyways can alert poultry operations to implement immediate measures to prevent potential HPAI spreading on anything on the outside or inside of the poultry house.

_______________________________

Feral Swine Also a Problem

Pitesky noted a great abundance of feral swine in California, and the geographical extent is poorly understood. “But what we do know with respect to influenza is that although feral swine, and swine in general, are unique species, influenza viruses from humans and influenza viruses from birds can infect swine. That represents one of the ways we get new strains of Avian Influenza that could adversely affect all animals, including birds and potentially humans,” he noted.

Of course, poultry HPAI is not a problem for humans. Pitesky noted, “When people say ‘highly pathogenic,’ it has nothing to do with whether humans get it or not. The ‘highly pathogenic’ label is specifically for birds in that it makes birds sick. There is no evidence any of those strains we found in North America are zoonotic, meaning able to infect humans, at this point,” he said.

_______________________________

BioSecurityforBirds
(Source: USDA Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) Bio Security for Birds)

_________________

Biosecurity Explained – 6 Simple Steps

The USDA Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) wants to help poultry owners keep their birds healthy by practicing biosecurity to reduce the chances exposure to animal diseases such as avian influenza (AI) or exotic Newcastle disease (END).

APHIS advises the following consistent daily biosecurity practices:

_________________

The USDA’s Fall 2015 HPAI Preparedness and Response Plan to preventing and responding to future HPAI cases, in collaboration with industry and State partners, includes:

 Promoting improved on-farm biosecurity practices in order to prevent future HPAI cases to the greatest extent possible

 Improving HPAI surveillance in wild birds as a means to provide “early warning” risk information to States and industry

 Expanding Federal, State and industry response capabilities, including availability of personnel, equipment, and depopulation, disposal and recovery options

 Improving USDA’s capabilities to rapidly detect HPAI in domestic poultry and to depopulate affected flocks within 24 hours to reduce the environmental load of HPAI viruses and their subsequent spread

 Streamlining the processes for payment of indemnity and the cost of eliminating viruses so that producers receive a fair amount quickly, to assist them in returning to production

 Enhancing our ability to communicate in a timely and effective way with producers, consumers, legislators, media, and others regarding outbreaks and other information

 Making preparations to identify and deploy effective AI vaccines should they be a cost beneficial addition to the eradication efforts in a future HPAI outbreak.

_________________

Resources:

UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine 

2015 Avian Influenza News (Bird Flu)

California Animal Health and Food Safety (CAHFS) Laboratory System

_________________

CDFA

Poultry Facility Biosecurity Risk Assessment Guide: “We will always be one step ahead.”

Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza (HPAI) outbreak in the United States

Avian Entry Requirements into California Update

_________________

USDA

Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service

2015 Avian Influenza News 

Avian Influenza Disease

_________________

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.

California Rice Farmers Could Get Pollution Credit

Source: Edward Ortiz; The Fresno Bee

California’s evolving cap-and-trade market may soon have a new player: rice farmers.

A proposal by the California Air Resources Board staff, up for board approval in September, would allow rice farmers in the Sacramento Valley to sell carbon emission offsets as part of the state’s effort to combat climate change.

Rice farmers would flood their fields for shorter periods, which would reduce the decomposition process that emits methane – a potent greenhouse gas.

Businesses seeking to offset their own greenhouse gas emissions could buy credits from the farmers who had made gains in curbing pollution.

“The rice cultivation protocol is the first time rice practices have been identified as a potential source of greenhouse gas emission mitigation for California,” said Dave Clegern of the Air Resources Board.

The program, called the Rice Cultivation Projects Compliance Offset Protocol, is slated to go into effect on Jan. 1, 2015, and run for a 10-year period. State air quality officials and environmental groups say other crops could eventually be included in cap and trade as well.

“I think this rice protocol sets an important precedent for agriculture,” said Robert Parkhurst, director of agriculture and greenhouse gas markets for the Environmental Defense Fund. The nonprofit has been working with the California Rice Commission and the Air Resources Board to craft the program.

Rice was selected as the first crop because it’s a potent contributor of methane – a greenhouse gas implicated in climate change.

Methane is produced when rice farmers flood fields during spring seeding and prior to fall harvest. Flooding cuts off the soil’s exposure to oxygen. This causes anaerobic fermentation of the organic matter in the soil. Methane is an end product of that fermentation. The methane is released into the atmosphere primarily through the rice plant. A smaller portion bubbles up from the soil and escapes through the water.

The cap-and-trade program, launched in 2013, is an outgrowth of the state’s emissions-reducing law, AB 32. The program caps overall greenhouse gas emissions at a lower level each year. It allows industries to buy pollution allowances, within a certain limit, to offset their own release of greenhouse gases.

Farmers are largely exempt from cap and trade, and the offset program is voluntary for rice farmers. In order to sell credits, they will need to prove they changed the way they flooded their fields and reduced the amount of methane emitted as a result. The reductions will be measured using a complex computer model with independent third-party verification before offset credits are issued, according to the air board.

Those reductions can then be sold as part of the cap-and-trade program – at a market rate.

“For this to be successful, we’re going to need to see a group of farmers get together to cooperate in order to create these projects,” said Parkhurst. “The opportunity is large because there are a large number of acres, but the credits per acre (figure) is on the small side.”

The amount of methane that can be reduced would be about a half a ton to a ton per acre per year, said Parkhurst.

“What we would like is to take the opportunity with rice and see how it can be applied to other crops in other regions,” Parkhurst said.

He said that almonds are among a few crops now being considered for involvement in the cap-and-trade program. The Environmental Defense Fund has been working with the California Almond Board on a proposal.

That program would likely address fertilizer application practices in almond cultivation and their contribution to greenhouse gases.

The ARB is offering rice farmers two options under the new program. The first is a process called ‘dry seeding’ – where water is put on rice fields later during seeding season. The other demands farmers drain rice fields seven to 10 days earlier than usual.

Most of the 550,000 acres of rice planted in the state is in the Sacramento Valley, and most of that is grown by farmers who flood their fields – typically to a depth of 4 to 5 inches prior to seeding

Many unresolved factors could limit enthusiasm among rice farmers for the program, said Tom Butler, owner of the Sutter Basin rice farm corporation.

Butler grows 4,000 acres of rice and 265 acres of almonds several miles south of the Sutter County town of Robbins. He’s one of four farmers participating in a pilot program begun in March as part of the cap-and-trade effort with rice farmers.

The new practices suit his farm because his soil drains much more quickly than most rice farms in the Sacramento Valley. He said he thinks other farmers will be wary about draining their fields.

“Pulling water on and off can cause some serious nitrogen and erosion problems for your rice if you are not careful,” said Butler. “I would not have jumped into it feet first if we did not have the soil we have.”

If a lot of farmers sign up, however, the drying of their land could cause another environmental problem. Flooded rice fields provide more than 300,000 acres of wetland habitat for waterfowl and other birds that travel through the Sacramento Valley on the Pacific Flyway.

For now the air resources agency has decided to exclude winter flooding of rice fields from the cap-and-trade program. It is winter flooding – and not flooding during spring seeding or before harvest – that provides the most crucial wetland habitat for bird populations.

Butler said he’s decided to participate in the cap-and-trade program more for altruistic reasons than financial ones.

“I think about this as the right thing to do,” Butler said. “We’re trying our best to be good stewards of the land, and produce a crop … and this program could be a next step for us.”