by SUSAN MANN
More farms are under quarantine surrounding a second farm in Oxford County confirmed to have H5N2 avian influenza, bringing the total number of quarantined farms in Ontario to 53.
The Canadian Food Inspection Agency has quarantined the 24 farms in a 10-kilometre zone around the second farm, a broiler-breeder operation southwest of Kitchener, confirmed to have the virus. The first farm in Ontario confirmed to have the virus was a commercial turkey operation north of Woodstock.
“The risk from migratory birds is high right now. It’s that time of the year,” says Ingrid DeVisser, chair of the Ontario Feather Board Command Centre, referring to the spring wild bird migration. “Biosecurity is key. Everybody in the province is on heightened biosecurity at this point.”
The Ontario Feather Board Command Centre is the poultry industry’s disease management organization.
In a background document posted on its website, CFIA says there’s no evidence to date to indicate the two Ontario influenza cases are linked, and that means the chicken broiler breeder operation didn’t contract the virus from the turkey farm. “They are separate incidents,” the notice says.
Avian influenza isn’t a food safety risk when poultry and poultry products are properly handled and cooked. The virus rarely affects humans that don’t have consistent contact with infected birds.
There are still 29 farms under quarantine in a 10-kilometre zone around the commercial turkey operation north of Woodstock. A total of 35,000 turkeys on that farm with the virus were euthanized by CFIA earlier this month, while the virus killed about 10,000 of the turkeys.
The chickens on the broiler-breeder operation will also be euthanized, CFIA says in an April 18 news release. Testing was done to confirm the virus after the farm experienced sudden bird deaths over several days.
The H5N2 virus in Ontario is the same strain that affected poultry farms in British Columbia in December 2014 and is the same one circulating in the United States.
Meanwhile, the presence of avian influenza in Ontario has affected another farm-related event. Breakfast on the Farm scheduled for June 6 has been postponed indefinitely. Farm & Food Care Ontario announced the postponement in a press release issued Tuesday. The decision was based on advice from industry partners and discussion with the host family, the release says, noting avian influenza poses a significant risk to Ontario’s poultry farms.
Since 2013, 6,000 people have attended three on-farm breakfast events across Ontario. The event is free to attend but visitors must reserve tickets. So far, almost 900 tickets have been reserved for the breakfast at the Veldman farm near Embro. It’s the first time in the event’s two-year history that it had to be postponed.
Sue McLarty, Farm & Food Care Ontario special events manager, says this morning she emailed everyone who reserved tickets plus the volunteers scheduled to work at the event to notify them of the postponement. “We haven’t been able to reschedule yet because it’s hard to make plans when you don’t know how the avian influenza risk is going to go. We’re just kind of playing it by ear.”
McLarty says “last Tuesday we were hopeful it was going ahead and then Monday it wasn’t.”
Earlier this month, the Poultry Industry Council and the Western Fair District announced the cancellation of the London Poultry Show scheduled for this week.
Embro-area egg and grain farmer Dan Veldman and his family were gearing up to host about 2,000 people for the fourth on farm breakfast event.
“There is a story to be told and we love telling our story,” says Veldman. “We think consumers are very interested in where their food comes from but this just didn’t work. The risks just outweighed the benefit.”
The organizers decided to postpone the event “until things get under control,” says Veldman, an Egg Farmers of Ontario board director.
The farm of Dan and Glynis Veldman is located about 10 to 15 kilometres away from the turkey farm with the virus and about 40 to 45 kilometres away from the broiler breeder operation. It is not in the quarantined zones.
As for biosecurity on their farm, Veldman says they reviewed their procedures to ensure they’re “watching every little detail. The biggest thing with us is we were moving birds and cleaning barns when the first (avian influenza case) broke out.”
Veldman says once a year they send their spent laying hens to processor Maple Lodge, clean and disinfect the barns and get new hens in. They were in the middle of that process during the first outbreak near Woodstock. “It was a difficult time but all our birds are back in and everything is going good, touch wood.”
“You just hope that you’re not going to be the one that’s going to get it,” he adds.
The farm has two barns with 20,000 laying hens in each one and one barn with 10,000 hens. The Veldmans also grow cash crops.
Amy Matheson, communication administrator for the Oxford County Federation of Agriculture and a member of the Oxford breakfast on the farm organizing committee, says the six-person committee has spent the past year working on the event.
“We are disappointed but we also realize that it is the most responsible thing to do in order to protect the Ontario poultry industry,” she says. “It wasn’t a decision that was made lightly.”
McLarty says, “we were really excited to have a poultry and grain farm. It was unique because the Veldmans have viewing rooms into the barn so you could have seen into the barn.”
UPDATE WED. APRIL 22 2015 9:45 A.M. -- The Saugeen Valley Fur & Feather Fanciers Association has announced the cancellation of its sale. The sale was scheduled to take place on Sunday in Mount Forest.
"Even though we have government agencies telling us to go ahead we have been requested to cancel by others today" the sale's organizers announced in a Facebook post yesterday. Organizers noted in an earlier Facebook message that the sale was not located within the quarantined zone. END OF UPDATE BF