Tag Archives: Turkeys

What does highly pathogenic bird flu mean for Iowa’s turkey farmers?

Since the first case of highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) was confirmed in Minnesota in March, poultry farmers in the Midwest have been living in fear.
There has always been a risk that disease would affect our farms, so we do everything we can to prevent it. We raise our turkeys indoors so they can’t comingle with wild birds. We restrict visitors that may unknowingly bring germs inside. And we wear clean clothing and footwear in our barns.
But unfortunately, that’s not always enough to keep an outbreak from occurring.
Turkey farmers have dealt with disease outbreaks before. And sometimes, they have been serious. But none match the devastation caused by HPAI, or bird flu, as it is commonly called.

Ellworth turkeys by Aaron Putze

What’s different about bird flu?

Highly pathogenic avian influenza is concerning for several reasons.

       1. It’s spread by wild birds who show no symptoms. Because of the number of cases in the Mississippi Flyway, the migratory pattern for wild waterfowl in the Midwest, it is safe to assume that at least part of the wild waterfowl population here are infected. But there is no way to know without a blood test.
      2. There is a 21 day incubation period, during which time poultry may be infected, but do not show any signs. This is concerning because a farmer may have an infected flock and may spread it to another flock without knowing.
     3. It is highly pathogenic for poultry. After the incubation period, there are few symptoms before birds begin dying. And once they start dying, it’s a matter of days before the entire flock is affected.

This can be emotionally devastating to a farmer. Farmers put the care and well-being of their livestock at the top of their priority list. Can you imagine walking into a barn and seeing that half your flock had died overnight? It would be heartbreaking, and has been for many farmers involved.

As always, farmers are working hard to prevent the disease in their turkeys. And scientists are working overtime to figure out why the disease has become such a problem this year, when it has not been in the past. For now, the best we can do is continue to care for our turkeys as we always have, and hope for the best.

***There is NO food safety risk associated with avian influenza and only minimal human health risk. This strain of the virus has NOT infected any humans.
Iowa’s Turkey Industry Facts:
• 130 turkey farms
• Raise over 11 million turkeys every year
• Ranks 9th in US turkey production
• Each turkey adds more than $20 to Iowa’s economy.
• Total economic impact of raising and processing turkeys in Iowa is over $1.5 billion.

Turkey Farms Affected:

(turkey numbers are rounded to the nearest 1,000)
4/14/15 Buena Vista County 1 with 27,000 turkeys affected

4/24/15 Sac County 1 with 34,000 turkeys affected

4/29/15 Buena Vista County 2 with 41,000 turkeys affected

4/29/15 Buena Vista County 3 with 41,000 turkeys affected

4/30/15 Pocahontas County 1 with 17,000 turkeys affected

4/30/15 Cherokee County 1 with 45,000 turkeys affected

5/1/15 Buena Vista County 4 with 30,000 turkeys affected

5/1/15 Sac County 2 with 43,000 turkeys affected

5/1/15 Pocahontas County 2 with 33,000 turkeys affected

5/1/15 Buena Vista County 5 with 63,000 turkeys affected

5/1/15 Cherokee County 2 with 54,000 turkeys affected

5/4/15 Buena Vista County 6 with 34,000 turkeys affected


Total Turkeys: 458,506


Winter Storm Ion on the Farm

Sun. Feb 24, 1935

“This afternoon the weather began to change, a light mist was falling and this later changed to a snow.  The storm increased and turned into a regular blizzard.  Our turkeys are always out in the open during all kinds of weather and when this storm became very severe we discussed the necessity of shelter for them.  D.L. insisted that they had always taken care of themselves and that they would be in good shape and come thru it fine, but late in the evening we found that their feathers were becoming loaded with wet snow and ice and the heads covered with ice.  It seemed that the best thing would be to get them in the big barn and the only way to do this was carry them in.  We would make several trips thru the deep snow and the blizzard, then after coming to the house to melt the snow from our eyes and faces we would make several trips again.  In this way we finally had all of the flock under cover.  They are very hardy and very independent birds, but you could see that they appreciated the shelter of the big barn.  Had we known the storm would be so severe, we could have driven them inside early in the afternoon.”

Elmer G. Powers, Quietdale Farm, Boone County, Iowa

The Farm Diary of Elmer G. Powers, 1931-1936

Co-Edited by H. Roger Grant and L. Edward Purcell


This week, Winter Storm Ion brought bitter cold temperatures to Iowa.  How cold?  Actual temperature Sunday night was -12⁰F and wind chills reached -40 to -50⁰F.

turkey barn family farm Winter Storm Ion

 Although these cold temperatures are extreme, Iowa faces some tough weather every year.  Cold, snow, and ice are three of the reasons that Iowa’s turkey farmers raise their turkeys inside warm, climate controlled buildings.

Even during the coldest winter days, the turkeys on Iowa’s turkey farms will have no idea what the weather is like outside.  Inside their barns, they will have 24 hours access to food and clean water and be immune to the stress that cold weather could cause their bodies.