March 27, 2023

Arkansas largely spared from worst poultry flu outbreak ever

The worst outbreak of extremely pathogenic avian influenza within the U.S. ever disrupted manufacturing and led to elevated poultry costs in 2022. An estimated 53 million birds nationwide have been impacted by the illness this yr.

The illness ravaged different states and Canadian provinces beginning in spring and Arkansas’ poultry farms had been spared from any outbreaks. That modified in October, with the detection of a primary 2022 case in Madison County. As of December, three flocks within the state had examined constructive for avian influenza, or HPAI.

The illness has been present in business and yard flocks in 46 states and in wild birds in 47 states, in keeping with the U.S. Division of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Well being Inspection Service. As of Dec. 7, 52.87 million birds have been affected, making this essentially the most important outbreak in U.S. historical past by way of variety of birds affected.

“Arguably, it wasn’t one of the best yr for poultry manufacturing typically within the U.S.,” mentioned Jada Thompson, assistant professor of agricultural economics and agribusiness for the Arkansas Agricultural Experiment Station, the analysis arm of the College of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture.

Thompson mentioned avian influenza induced severe logistical and advertising and marketing challenges for Arkansas producers.

“Farms that had been in management areas had restricted actions on and off farm, which ends up in disruptions in regular enterprise, causes stress and should result in monetary losses associated to productiveness or timing of processing,” Thompson mentioned.

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Thompson mentioned the elevated demand for alternative birds ensuing from HPAI additionally contributed to produce chain challenges.

“HPAI was much more concentrated in turkey layer farms, as a result of they’re extra inclined to it than broilers,” she mentioned. HPAI spreads extra simply in turkeys and older birds like turkeys and layers who spend extra time on the farm than broilers.

Whereas HPAI was a problem for each broiler and turkey producers alike, there was a rise in hatchings, she mentioned.

“We did see a rise in hatching for broilers and a slight improve for turkeys,” Thompson mentioned. “Producers began placing eggs in incubators to attempt to regulate for HPAI.”

This trade’s response in 2022 differed from 2015, which had been the worst avian influenza yr till 2022.

“After we first had HPAI in 2015, we had been somewhat behind making an attempt to determine what was taking place,” Thompson mentioned. “This yr had quite a lot of proactive measures that had been taken to attempt to tackle provide shortages and to mitigate them as a lot as doable.”

Different challenges, together with HPAI, induced the worth of poultry merchandise to extend for customers.

“We additionally noticed a hike with inflation, which added to the provision chain disruptions,” Thompson mentioned. “Fertilizer has gotten costly, which makes producing corn dearer. That makes feeding birds dearer.”

Broiler costs have gone up 47% over the past yr, in keeping with Thompson. Turkey costs went up roughly 27% in 2022.

As HPAI lingers in late 2022, Thompson mentioned that surveillance and monitoring for HPAI will possible proceed into 2023.

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“I feel there’ll possible be some adjustment within the variety of birds to attempt to offset the potential losses in 2023,” she mentioned. “There are nonetheless quite a lot of unknowns which each assist or damage the poultry markets.

“I wish to be hopeful that the trade’s preemptive measures will assist scale back the unfold of HPAI and may regulate to the market situations rapidly to take care of their enterprise continuity for producers and assist ease a few of the pressures on customers,” Thompson mentioned.

Poultry is a big agriculture sector in Arkansas. The state produced $3.9 billion in broilers and $443 million in turkeys in 2021, in keeping with the USDA’s Nationwide Agricultural Statistics Service. Chickens stay the first protein supply for a lot of populations around the globe. It was estimated that 25.9 billion chickens had been raised worldwide in 2021, in keeping with the U.N. There have been about 520 million chickens within the U.S. in 2020.