Ontario’s poultry industry gradually returns to standard operations

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According to USDA reports, about 85% of the HPAI infections occur in commercial chicken factories (CAFO's); in spite of their being far more small, backyard flocks than monster chicken factories. How do we explain this distribution of Bird Flu?

Flies are known carriers of HPAI (Bird Flu). There are 83 times more flies around CAFO chicken farms than the normal background fly concentration. Flies have a typical flight range from 2 to 20 miles. Flies are attracted to CAFO chicken operations due the the huge quantities of manure, the dead stock, succulent odors that attract flies, and other waste streams that are ever present. Wildlife (including wild birds known to carry HPAI) are attracted to CAFO chicken factories by the remaining food value in the manure (only ~30% of the chicken feed is digested, the rest is excreted), feed spills, and similar opportunities. If a fly becomes a HPAI carrier, it can infect chickens who eat or are exposed to the contaminated fly. Once one bird eats a HPAI contaminated fly, it has a high probability of becoming sick with HPAI. Once one bird is infected in a CAFO chicken barn with 200,000 or more birds living cheek to jowl, the rest of those birds will soon be sick too. Most CAFO barns have screens to keep wild birds out, but few are able to keep flies out 100%. The ventilation fans in these chicken factory barns usually run 24/7, usually don't have HEPA filters, and are known to suck in contaminants and blow out even more contaminants, including bacteria, manure, feather dander, and viruses such as HPAI. The contaminated dust coming out of CAFO chicken barns has been shown to be infectious at least 10 miles downwind, potentially being sucked in by the air intake of another CAFO barn, or the infectious dust contaminates other flies, or being carried by humans.

All of the above are scientifically proven facts, summarized here:

The Supply Management Chicken biosecurity programs and regulations are mere suggestions (ie. not mandatory), or ambiguous, superficial, or conflicting.

Until the latent defects with CAFO chicken operations are solved, the Bird Flue epidemics will likely continue.

Glenn Black
Small Flock Poultry Farmers of Canada

I'm betting there are far more than 85% of the U.S. flock in commercial flocks, which suggests to me that the backyard flocks are MORE susceptible, not less.

The above anonymous poster points out that big flocks are, by total bird numbers, under-represented by disease outbreak incidents - or, in other words, claiming it makes sense that 85% of the disease outbreaks happen in big flocks because big flocks constitute the greatest percentage of the entire bird population.

Mr. Black's point, as I understand it, is the farm's relative suspectibility, regardless of the size of the barn - or, if I understand his thesis, he is claiming that, by incident, disease is, all else being equal, more likely to happen in big flocks rather than in small ones.

The definitional problem is one of spurious correlations and the lack of any controlled experimental models. For example, one might make the claim that women at weight loss salons have double the average of Type 2 diabetes as evident in the total female population - a claim which might be true but which ignores the probability that women with body types most-prone to Type 2 diabetes are those who tend to go to weight loss salons in the first place. Therefore, there is no correlation between Type 2 diabetes and weight loss clinics except possibly the body type of the individual.

Stephen Thompson, Clinton ON

In response to Mr. Thompson's posting "The numbers in both arguments are questionable" (see http://www.betterfarming.com/comment/16251#comment-16251 ).

I agree with Mr. Thompson that correlation is not causation. Note that I used words such as "suggest", "likely", and similar words that suggest there is room for doubt and further study.

Secondly, the 85% of Bird Flu infection prevelence in CAFO chicken factories I used is from USDA data. I used US data due to the 10 times greater sample size (ie. the 10:1 size difference between the US vs. Canadian poultry industry). I was hoping to get a more accurate prevelence level with the larger sample size. While meta studies can be done where data can be statistically combined from different studies, I did not perform those detailed statistical calculations in this case. I agree there is a risk of error when combining US and Canadian data.

Therefore, these "back of the envelope" calculations I presented above are just rough estimates, but are sugested to be more than statistically and practically significant.

There could be many reasons why CAFO chicken farms are approximately 77 times more susceptible to Bird Flu. Some of those reasons may be innocent, spurious relations that are not a black mark against CAFO, nor a gold star for small flockers. Off the top of my head, I can't think what that spurious reason might be, but I concede it could exist. After all, we might find Martians living on the back side of Pluto one day. Who knows!

I have proposed one scenario with reasons and mechanisms for CAFO being found to be more risky than small flock poultry farming (see http://www.betterfarming.com/comment/16249#comment-16249 ).

I agree that this might not be the full reason that CAFOs are approx. 77 times more risky.

Time will tell.

Unfortunately, the SM industry's response to this high risk profile will likely be denial, distraction, posturing, propaganda, and public relations. Unfortunately, Canada's Chicken Supply Management system will not likely sponsor, nor co-operate, with hard science research to better understand this risky SM CAFO profile and the true mechanisms that create it. I suspect that this research will likely find SM culpable with faulty processes and poor biosecurity systems, and that finding would force them to change for the better. That's the last think that the SM Chicken bosses would want.

Glenn Black
Small Flock Poultry Farmers of Canada

When Mr. Black notes that Supply Management will likely employ "denial, distraction, posturing, propaganda and public relations", his phrasing is similar to that of Tibor Szabo, President of the Ontario Beekeepers who was recently quoted as saying that, in response to the proposed reduction in the use of neonicotinoid insecticides, the Grain Farmers of Ontario (GFO) have done nothing but "deny, delay and distract".

The saddest aspects of this patronizing and dismissive type of approach by both SM and GFO are:

(1) it doesn't work
(2) it makes the people who utilize it look amateurish, petulant and possessed of a misplaced sense of entitlement.
(3) it is a throwback to the bad-old-days when former US President, Richard Nixon, tried to do the same thing in response to Watergate and became reviled for doing so.
(4) Few sectors of society except primary agriculture seem to employ these type of "deny, delay, distract" public relations tactics any more, and for good reason.

Supply management's public relations tactics have always been sleazy, cheesy (no pun intended) and riddled with egregious half-truths, while, alas, starting with ethanol, GFO hasn't been far behind, and, if anything, their current neonicotinoid public relations campaign has been continuously bungled to the point of being "OMFG-inept".

Why do people in primary agriculture seem to believe we can get away with the type of public relations tactics which would have us reviled anywhere else?

Stephen Thompson, Clinton ON

In response to "I'm Betting There are Far" http://betterfarming.com/comment/16250#comment-16250

I agree with you that the total number of chickens in commercial CAFO flocks exceed the total number of birds held by small flock farmers.

For example, the largest Ontario flock being around 200,000 birds. However, a small flock can be just 2 birds. In Ontario, half of the small flocks have less than 57 birds according to CFO's data.

In Ontario, Chicken Farmers of Ontario ("CFO") reported in 2014 there is 1,138 commercial CAFO mega chicken factories, but 15,500 small flock chicken farmers. In Canada, there is about 2,700 CAFO commercial chicken farmers, but we estimate there are far more than 60,000 small flock poultry farmers.

In spite of these ratios of between 13 to 22 to 1 (ie. an average of 17.5 small flocks for every commercial chicken factory), the CAFO mega chicken factories have 85% of the Bird Flu outbreaks, a 1:5 ratio.

With a 17:1 flock ratio but a 1:5 Bird Flu infection ratio, it appears that the commercial CAFO factory farms have an Bird Flu infection rate 77 times higher than what the small flocks have.

How do we explain this 77 time higher probability that CAFO chicken factories become infected?

It may be easy to assume that God has smitten the CAFO chicken farmer and Chicken Supply Management with a plague as retribution for their past sins.

However, there is an easier, and less judgmental answer. The easiest explanation it that the CAFO chicken factories are defective, corrupt, and biosecurity disasters.

Glenn Black
Small Flock Poultry Farmers of Canada

Yawza!!!!  You seem to be trying to calculate Ontario flock ratios, doing some crazy math mixing in US outbreak numbers and perhaps trying to pick the winning Lotto numbers? Your "probability" numbers are really meaningless.

You comment about God smiting Chicken Supply Management with a plague as retribution for their past sins, yet Ontario's three infected flocks included two turkey flocks and one breeder operation - no broiler flocks at all! Not evidence of a smite.

Normally if Canada has three of something, the 10 times larger US would have 30.
Yet, the US has lost some 180 flocks - 60 times as many infected flocks.
Ontario's 70,000 birds compared to their 40 million - about 570 times as many birds.

Too early for anyone sensible to draw conclusions but a reasonable one might be that some of the ways that things that are done here perhaps give us advantages and better biosecurity than the US.

In response to "Size is not everything, Glenn" http://www.betterfarming.com/comment/16254#comment-16254

As of today, CFIA lists 3 outbreaks of HPAI in Ontario for 2015 (see http://www.inspection.gc.ca/animals/terrestrial-animals/diseases/reporta... )

There are no small flock poultry operations that have been infected so far for Ontario in 2015.

To take a ratio of prevelence for 3 commercial farms and zero small flock farms, is to attempt to divide 3 by zero which is infinity. Hence the problem.

How many more commercial poultry farms must be infected before it is likely that the first small flock poultry farm becomes infected? We have no method to estimate or assume this ratio.

Fortunately, the USDA database provides some limited insights to this issue, as there was 85% CAFO commercial and 15% small flock outbreaks. That is why I used the USDA data.

I suggest that the systems, equipment, processes, training, and regulations in USA and Canada for poultry houses are similar on biosecurity issues. I therefore suggest that it is reasonable to assume and use the USDA data until we have better data for Canada.

I believe SM supporters will likely deny, distract, and delay by pointing to irrelevant fluff, so that the conversation is hijacked, and the important point is lost. Irrelevant attacks by anonymous posters serves that purpose best of all.

I agree that only turkey and hatcheries have been infected so far in Ontario, with no broiler operations so far. All of that is under the Supply Management system and its regulatory control of Ontario and Canada. My previous post had mentioned the possible smiting of "CAFO chicken farmers". More correctly, I should have said "CAFO poultry farmers" (meant to include commercial CAFO factories for broilers, eggs layers, turkeys, and hatcheries).

I agree that the US has been hard hit. The US has many regions with high densities of poultry farms, located in close proximity to each others (eg. Delmarva, Wisconsin, Iowa, Georgia, Alabama, California, etc.).

Those close proximities, combined with the possible fly vector mechanism I have suggested, and poor biosecurity systems to protect against that fly vectors will naturally lead to HPAI spreading like wildfire.

Infections tend to spread in a stoichastic (ie. randomized) process. This random process tends to create large variability when small samples or short durations occur.

I suggest that if Monte Carlo stoichastic simulations are run on the density of US and Canada poultry farms and the outbreaks that have occurred, there is likely no outliers or unexplained events, and would fully explain the 60 times higher prevalence rate you state in the US vs. Canada as of today. Hopefully, somebody is currently doing that, or will be doing it so as to prove or dis-prove that point. If an outlier does exists, it could identify an opportunity for further improvement by the Supply Management CAFO sector.

Glenn Black
Small Flock Poultry Farmers of Canada

I am a hog farmer and have been for many many years and I do wish I had entered the chicken business when I could have afforded it. BUT I don't sit around and complain about their industry even if I can't afford to pay for land what they can.

Editor: Anonymous comment modified in accordance with our guidelines.

Being smug about not complaining about being legislatively screwed-over by your neighbours, is being the ultimate floor mat - What about, instead, standing up for what's right by heeding the wisdom of the adage - "Evil prevails when good men do nothing"?

Stephen Thompson, Clinton ON

In response to "Expert for a Guy Who Raises 1 Chicken" http://betterfarming.com/comment/16257#comment-16257

Three years ago, all I knew about chickens was how to spell it, and eat it. I had to learn the hard way in a very short period of time. I still have much more to learn. I am far from being an expert.

Currently, I have 99 layers and 1 meat bird. I will be ordering meat bird chicks soon to pasture raise between 100 to 300 meat birds this year, depending on how many farm gate customers I can round up.

Your comment of "Raises 1 chicken" seems to be referring to our previous decision to have just 1 meat bird while our OMAFRA Appeal was active. Is that issue still relevant for some reason?

I agree with you. It does seem like I'm continuously complaining about Supply Management Chicken.

Maybe I have cause to complain.

Perhaps I complain so much because I'm advocating for the rights and freedoms stolen from Small Flock Poultry Farmers all across Canada, myself included.

Perhaps it's because CFO, CFC, and most of the other players in Supply Management keep poking Small Flockers with their sharp regulatory stick.

If someone started poking you with a sharp stick, and they wouldn't stop when you asked them nicely, how many pokes would it take before you start complaining?

The sharp stick of the SM Chicken System isn't just poking Small Flockers. They also poke every Canadian consumer when they reign over a system that charges 50% to 300% more than what other countries pay for chicken.

The SM Chicken Overlords allow and encourage steady increases in chicken prices, even more than what they are allowed under the law (eg. bogus FCR claims), so that chicken affordability dropped 37% between 1995 to 2005 for someone earning Minimum Wage in Ontario.

Health Canada reports that 7.6% of Canadian families can't afford the food they need to feed themselves. In Nunavut, 75% of pre-school chicken don't eat on any particular day because their is no food in the house. Poor Canadians go "grocery shopping" by searching for food in the municipal garbage dump. Between 1989 and 2014, Food Bank usage in Canada is up 220%. Chicken should be the least expensive meat, and more affordable for all. Yet the SM Chicken Overlords focus their efforts on moving their members from millionaires to billionaires.

By the death grip with which they hold and protect their precious monopoly, the SM Monopolists prevent 430,000 new jobs from being created all across Ontario, and the prosperity those jobs could bring to hundreds of small communities and remote areas.

So maybe you're right. Maybe I do complain too much.

If you (or anybody else who would like to do so) will kindly explain why I should stop complaining about any of the issues listed above, and provide reasonable and sufficient arguments that I can easily understand, I am willing to drop that issue from my list of complaints against Canada's SM Chicken Overlords.

Glenn Black
Small Flock Poultry Farmers of Canada

Editor: comment has been modified by editor in accordance with our guidelines.

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