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NPIP Flock Testing 2015 – Avian Influenza, Pullorum-Typhoid

April 22, 2015
Young layers, raised last year, wait for random testing.

Young layers, raised last year, wait for random testing.

Several years ago we signed up for the National Poultry Improvement Plan – or NPIP – a program with the Alabama Department of Agriculture and Industries and, ultimately, USDA. While many see it as the big bad guys at USDA telling us who we can buy from, the NPIP is a voluntary program that insures our birds stay healthy.

There is truth that we must purchase from a pullorum-typhoid free flock or keep new purchases isolated. That is wise anyway. When we purchase from hatcheries like Ideal or Cackle, their suppliers are also on NPIP so we’re assured of getting clean chicks. When we sell to someone else, they’re assured that the flock doesn’t have the disease as of the annual testing.

This year there is more interest in the other test – the one that is putting fear in the hearts of poultry keepers now. Avian Influenza. It’s been in the news, it’s been on the minds of poultry keepers and it’s a concern for both indoor and outdoor keepers. Obviously, outdoor birds have access to wild birds. However, indoor birds have also been getting sick.

As we prepared to test, we talked of the nightmare up north. Turkeys have a 95% mortality rate and no time to treat. My birds, he said, would be negative because positive is dead. Grim, but true. My friend Lara has been on the front lines of a headline nightmare. Tens of thousands of turkeys.

Then the news from Iowa of over 5 million hens being put down from active cases. Unspeakably heartbreaking.

In a light hearted banter for a serious test we joked of angry birds, hair cuts (Connor was amazed one of the testers noticed my hair was cut – from last year introduction!) and facility improvements, as well as serious talk of the nightmare of working through killing five million hens. It is timely that our annual test comes up while this is a news story, but there have been no reports of issues thus far in Alabama.

Swabbing a baby gosling to test for Avian Influenza.

Swabbing a baby gosling to test for Avian Influenza.

Although young, our two remaining goslings were swabbed – as well as the turkeys, and a sampling of the Muscovy and chickens. Burnable protective suits were worn for the protection of our birds – a reason we don’t have visitors around the birds other than those of us working here regularly. The suits were taken off and burned here, all equipment was disinfected and cleaned before it went back into the vehicle.

In a test time shorter than it takes to describe it, or even catch the bird, each bird targeted was swabbed and stuck. This sounds simplistic, but the older birds had the indignity of having a small amount of blood pulled and mixed with a solution, an immediately visible indication of pass/fail.

For the goslings and ducks, the swab was taken via the cloaca – tail end. Chickens and turkeys get essentially a quick throat swab. Our Speckled Sussex was nice enough to semi-pose before swabbed.

A quick swab for chickens and turkeys - actually paused for the camera briefly and this hen held her mouth open waiting.

A quick swab for chickens and turkeys – actually paused for the camera briefly and this hen held her mouth open waiting.

The photos here give an idea of how the testing is done. Under the wing, a few small feathers are pulled to access a vein in the wing. A small tool is used to stick the vein, and a drop or two of blood is pulled and mixed in with a purple solution (see photo). These are normal colors…all is good.

The purple dots have not yet been mixed with blood. The others have a small drop of blood mixed in.

The purple dots have not yet been mixed with blood. The others have a small drop of blood mixed in.

This visit is done once a year, about this time of year, to insure that birds remain healthy from threats to them and to the poultry industry as a whole. As indicated in the last post, chickens and eggs are major industries in the state of Alabama, and keeping it viable is good.

 

 

Testing completed for another year. Suits, including plastic boots, reduce tracking anything on their clothes to my birds, and eliminate carrying anything out to others.The suits were removed and will be incinerated here as part of biosecurity.

Testing completed for another year. Suits, including plastic boots, reduce tracking anything on their clothes to my birds, and eliminate carrying anything out to others.The suits were removed and will be incinerated here as part of biosecurity.

Test site on an adult turkey is easy to see than on smaller birds!

Test site on an adult turkey is easy to see than on smaller birds!

On the under side of the wing, heavy feathered birds may have a few small feathers pulled to provide clean access to a vein for testing.

On the under side of the wing, heavy feathered birds may have a few small feathers pulled to provide clean access to a vein for testing.

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