July 31, 2015 – Georgia’s $28 billion poultry production industry, the largest agricultural industry in the state, may be threatened by a disease known as avian influenza.
To prevent an economic disaster, the Georgia Department of Agriculture (GDA) conducted contamination training exercises July 22 at Fort Valley State University’s Otis O’Neal Veterinary Science Building from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Avian influenza is a disease that infects chickens and turkeys. A recent outbreak of the disease in the Midwest led to the disposal of more than 43,000,000 birds, causing a huge blow to poultry producers in that part of the U.S. The outbreak has affected the country on a national level, causing a spike in the price of eggs.
More than 35 staffers of the GDA and the Georgia Department of Natural Resources attended the training. Exercises focused on the use of foam, normally used to fight wildfires, to humanely euthanize infected poultry stock. Participants also learned how to wear the proper clothing needed for the task.
Daniel Duncan, livestock and poultry program manager for the GDA, said that the disease is carried by birds migrating to and from Canada. He also said that it’s vital that the disease be contained due to the importance of the poultry industry to the state’s economy. Presently, there are no vaccinations available for the state’s poultry producers. “The number one thing producers can do across the state and anywhere in the U.S. is just have a biosecurity plan in place, and implement that biosecurity plan every day in their operations,” Duncan said.
Dr. George McCommon, head of FVSU’s Department of Veterinary Sciences and Public Health, said hosting training exercises helps the institution fulfill its role as part of the state’s disaster network. It also provides FVSU a chance to meet its obligations in the fields of Cooperative Extension, research and teaching.
“We were pleased that they thought enough of us to call us and ask us if we could be of assistance,” McCommon said. Duncan said the GDA would like to use FVSU as a training site for future drills, especially for its personnel in the middle and southern portions of the state. He said the training was a success.
“We will continue to use the facility if it’s made available by the university,” Duncan said. “This training was voluntary, so to have this number of people out here participating with us is very encouraging. I don’t doubt whatsoever that if we had an event take place that these folks will be there, ready and willing to help,” Duncan said.
Matthew Battles, a livestock inspector with the GDA, said he is more prepared to help contain contaminated birds should the situation arise. “It’s good to know that we can go help somebody as quickly as we should be able to, and get the problem handled before it becomes too big,” Battles said.
For more information about trainings at FVSU, contact McCommon at (478) 825-6424 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Caption: (From left)Chad Dominy and Matthew Battles, livestock inspectors for the Georgia Department of Agriculture, practice with foam machines that can be used in euthanizing poultry infected with avian influenza at Fort Valley State University’s Otis O’Neal Veterinary Science Building July 22.
FVSU Agricultural Communications Department