Despite a drop in HPAI cases, the poultry industry is remaining guarded

Many poultry producers are coming off a tough year after enduring the deadliest High Pathogenic Avian Influenza outbreak in U.S. history. Experts at Rabobank say it has been anything but typical.

“High Path Avian Influenza was the issue all year. Typically, it is primarily an issue that hits early in the year and then kind of dies out over the summer in the hotter temps. We didn’t get that last year. It was an issue all year, and we lost about 53 million birds. Now that was concentrated in a few areas. Iowa, Minnesota, and parts of South Dakota were hit hard, but it did primarily hit the egg-laying industry and, to a lesser degree, turkey. But the broiler industry was largely unaffected as a whole. There were some spot issues with some farms, but a fairly muted impact there on broilers,” said Christine McCracken.

While the entire poultry industry has learned valuable lessons over the last year, they warn the next couple of months still holds a lot of risks, especially in rural America.

“I think most people expect it to continue through the year because it did carry through the summer and fall last year. But the number of cases this year has been fairly muted, and it’s not had the dramatic impact, at least thus far, knock on wood, that maybe some had been worried about. When we think about the migration season, it’s still pretty early. We’ve got April and May here, where it’s still a big risk. That is typically when we see the largest number of birds coming across, and you can watch that every day online. And that concerns a lot of our growers and processors as we think through the impacts for the year.”

McCracken says she is hopeful producers are able to better keep the virus at bay this year, which could lead to more availability of eggs and turkey in the coming months.

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