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Poultry producers urged to keep eye on flocks

By Stephanie Schupska
University of Georgia

On Sept. 8 Dan Cunningham e-mailed small poultry farmers about biosecurity for backyard flocks. Most likely, few of them noted the date – and its agroterrorism connection.

It has been four years since the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon. But that day has changed agriculture forever.

Now, proper testing of dead, diseased birds is vital, said Cunningham, a poultry science professor and Cooperative Extension coordinator in the University of Georgia College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences. That's true even when the disease's source may be close to home.

"We're reminding small flock producers as a precautionary measure," he said. It's not because of a sudden disease outbreak.

Poultry accounts for half of the state's $4 billion farm income, according to UGA sources. Its economic impact in Georgia is $13.5 billion. On an average day, the state produces 24.7 million pounds of chicken meat and 8.2 million table eggs. It's hard to overstate how much is at stake.

"It's important for small flock owners to report sick or dying birds to the appropriate authorities," Cunningham said.

Many farmers contact county UGA Extension agents for soil problems. Cunningham and the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service urge producers to contact Extension agents and veterinarians if their poultry flocks develop a disease. APHIS is sponsoring radio spots to get their point across.

"Diseases can be an issue," Cunningham said. "We're asking that producers take birds to a lab if they're having problems."

Georgia has poultry veterinarians in nine diagnostic labs around the state, he said. Growers can take their birds to sites in:

  • Bowden (770-258-0300).
  • Camilla (229-336-0001).
  • Canton (770-479-2901).
  • Carnesville (706-384-2387).
  • Dalton (706-278-7306).
  • Douglas (912-384-3719).
  • Forsyth (478-994-1219).
  • Montezuma (478-472-9904).
  • Glennville (912-654-0504).
They may also call a USDA hotline (1-866-536-7593). Or they can call the Georgia Poultry Lab's main office in Oakwood (770-535- 5996).

(Stephanie Schupska is a news editor with the University of Georgia College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences.)

(Stephanie Schupska is a news editor with the University of Georgia Public Affairs Office.)

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