Avian Influenza in Turkeys

The past couple of weeks have been terrible for turkey farmers.

No, worst than terrible–more like devastating for Minnesota’s turkey farmers. As of the last count, 14 Minnesota turkey farms have been hit by the Avian Influenza virus. Approximately 900,000 birds have died–either directly from the virus or birds that had to be euthanized to prevent the spreading of the virus. There is no drug available to help with the virus and it’s fast moving–killing bird within 48 hours.

With all the news reports about the numbers of turkeys affected by the avian influenza, it’s easy to overlook the “human side” of the virus. The human emotional toll is difficult to hear, but an important dimension to the story. Here are a few examples of the human emotional impact:

According to a recent news report, a University of Minnesota veterinarian pathologist called a turkey farmer to inform him about the AI positive lab test results. The emotions are overwhelming as the news is delivered:

He was essentially crying all the time I was telling him, he said. He knows he’s going to lose those birds, but he knows he’s likely going to lose the birds in the adjacent barns. They are immediately devastated.

Farmer, Greg Langmo, states:

You just wonder if the Grim Reaper is going to knock at your door today, he said. It’s horrible. You have to understand that people in this business make their livelihood caring for animals. And we work really hard to make sure they’re properly watered and fed, their bedding is right and air is right, every minute of the day.

Another farmer from Faribault, MN, Kim Halvorson and her Dennis who have farmed for over 27 years:

I had a nightmare where I walked into the barn and every bird was gone. It’s kind of similar to knowing that there is a burglar in the neighborhood, but you don’t know where he’s going to hit.

Even though I am not a turkey farmer, my heart breaks for these farmers. We are all agriculture.

While we may raise different animals, we all face challenges specific to the animals we raise. But the bottom line in agriculture is: when they hurt, we hurt . . .

I can only say one thing to the affected turkey farmers. I am sorry.

The only thing that even remotely compares to the same level is the PED virus that affected many pig farmers a year ago. Approximately 7-8 million piglets died from the virus. And again, there was no drug to help with PED. It was a very painful to hear almost daily, farm after farm that lost piglets due to the virus. We all sat on “pins and needles” hoping our farm wasn’t next. This is the part of farming that’s hard. Really hard.

And what’s even harder to understand are the insulting comments some people make about these farms by insinuating the virus was the result of factory farms or the filthy living conditions.

Nothing could be further from the truth and it just adds to the pain these farmers are already feeling.  

And for that . . . I am also sorry . . . 


To answer some basic questions about the avian influenza:

How is the Avian Influenza virus spread and why is the Avian Influenza affecting so many birds in Minnesota?

Migrating birds are the prime suspects. The migrant birds deposit virus infected droppings. At that point, the virus can make it into barns by rodents, wild birds and unclean boots/shoes.

Minnesota is the number one state for turkey production. Minnesota also has many lakes and ponds which attracts migrating birds. So between these two conditions, experts feel this is why Minnesota has such a high number of cases.

Does the virus affect our food supply?


And because I am not a turkey or Avian Influenza expert, I have included some additional links:

The Worry and Work on Avian Influenza

Minnesota Turkey

Facts about Avian Influenza

Washington Post Q & A Avian Influenza

Agriculture.com Women in Ag – Answer Questions About Avian Influenza

Katie Olthoff and the Banks of Squaw Creek – A turkey farmer from Iowa and blogger 







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  1. Our hearts go out to these folks. You’re so right, Wanda..we’re all in agriculture, when one hurts, we all hurt. Hoping that it ends soon.

  2. Pingback: Avian Flu FAQ

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