Dossier H5N2: Avian flu costing Iowa 8,500 jobs, $427 million

The 2015 avian influenza outbreak is costing Iowa nearly 8,500 jobs, some of which may never be replaced. That’s the finding from a new study, commissioned by the Iowa Farm Bureau Federation (IFBF) and conducted by Decision Innovation Solutions (DIS).

The study shows in addition to job losses, the avian influenza outbreak will cost Iowa – the nation’s largest egg-producing state — nearly $427 million in lost additional value, more than half of which is income for Iowans. IFBF Director of Research and Commodity Services Dave Miller said the ripple effects of the lost jobs and revenue could last for up to three years, which will also impact egg and poultry prices, since it takes months to get the birds and the staff back in place.

“Egg prices are likely to peak out this summer, but the ‘elevated’ price for eggs is likely to linger for a minimum of 12 months and could last for two to three years. Recovery from this outbreak which devastated Iowa egg and poultry farms will not be swift,” said Miller.

“It’s really astounding that we could lose half of our poultry flock in a couple of months,” Miller said.

While the avian influenza outbreak was first discovered in a small, backyard chicken flock in another state, it cost Iowa the most damage, particularly in the northwest part of the state, since it has the highest population of birds and bird farms.

But, it’s not just poultry farms and poultry farm workers who are at a loss. As farms cut back, other Iowa businesses up and downstream were affected, including veterinarians, trucking companies, processors and lenders, the study shows. It also means nearly $427 million in value-added income was lost, because grain farmers and other businesses that sell their feed and other goods and services to poultry farms couldn’t continue to make and sell products and services like they did before the outbreak. Miller also said that many of the egg farm workers who lost their jobs are moving away to seek employment in other towns or other industries. That means replacing the labor pool won’t be easy.

“As for the future risk, the entire industry is reviewing all of their biosecurity protocols, but since about 16 percent of all wild water fowl are carriers of avian influenza, the potential for exposure is difficult to eliminate. Farms are working to minimize contact of their birds with wild birds, but it is very difficult to keep out sparrows, starlings, and everything that migrates over these barns,” said Miller.

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Dossier Anoxia Method: The sensible culling method for the use on organic farms

Organic poultry farming is the most responsively production system to produce healthy, good quality poultry meat and eggs in an ecologically way. It’s designed to avoid the need for agrochemicals and to minimize damage to the environment and wildlife.

Still, also organic poultry production is not free from the danger becoming infected by contagious diseases, like the current H5N2 outbreak in Canada and the USA.

All currently commercially available depopulation techniques focus on stamping out the virus, in an attempt to stop the spreading, not on maintaining animal welfare standards: methods like macerating birds alive; using CO2 in containers or throughout the entire poultry house; by electrocution; or by occlusion of the trachea with firefighting foam. This makes these techniques irreconcilable with the principle of organic farming, because the culling process with he current methods leave little room for the animal’s welfare rights in the last day of its existence.

Since June 2015, a new sensible culling technique is commercially available that serves both the goal to bring an outbreak to a stop and to maintain a high level of animal welfare during the process of culling for disease control purposes.

The Anoxia method is the most humane method to euthanize animals that are in severe pain or suffer severely seems to be the use of nitrogen gas foam. By this method the animals will be unconscious within a short time through an abundance of nitrogen. The animals die in a short time, without regaining consciousness.

The method of nitrogen gas foam uses a barrel, filled up with a layer of high expansion foam (big bubbles) completely filled with pure nitrogen. The animal will be placed in the foam and covered with a layer of foam of at least 60 centimetres. The animal will breathe 98 per cent nitrogen. The amount of oxygen in the blood diminishes very quickly and the animal will very soon be unconscious. Because of the extreme oxygen deficiency (anoxia) the animal dies within one and a half to two minutes. The animal will not regain consciousness and won’t notice that it dies.

The animal will be unaware that it breathes in pure nitrogen and it will not be harmful or painful for the animal because the normal air an animal breathes consists already of 78 per cent nitrogen. Inhalation of nitrogen is therefore not stressful, whereas for example with high concentrations of carbon dioxide the animal will try not to breathe.

The Anoxia method is not physically demanding on the farmer and his employees. The animals almost instantly lose consciousness after being dipped through the foam. Fixation of the animal to avoid them to hurt themselves during stunning is not needed, as necessary in most other methods. Because of the thick nitrogen foam layer and the amount of 98 per cent nitrogen it is certain that the animal will die. The chance that the method fails and the animal regain consciousness and won’t die, are next to zero.

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Dossier H7N7 in Holland: comparing culling methods

During the outbreak of H7N7 in Holland, 29,500.000 birds were killed at the farm. This presentation compares different culling techniques, such as stable gas, container gassing and electrocution.

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Dossier Anoxia: N2GF equipment commercially available in Benelux and Germany

Marking March 31 2015 as the official launching date, the First series of Anoxia Foam systems that will be officially branded as N2GF equipment is now commercially available in Netherlands, Belgium and Germany.

Anoxia Foam is a new and promising technique to euthanize farm animals with less negative impact on animal welfare. This was the conclusion of the veterinarians participating in the first course on Anoxia technology that was held last February in Barneveld, Netherlands. The Anoxia Foam technique consists of stunning animals in nitrogen gas foam, causing loss of consciousness within 20 – 30 seconds without stress. Poultry vets from Netherlands, Belgium and Germany joined the training that was accredited by the Royal Dutch Society of Veterinary Science.

N2GF systems consist of a high-expansion foam nozzle, fed with nitrogen from a high-pressure gas cylinder or from a nitrogen generator that produces nitrogen on the spot. The nitrogen generator has been specifically designed for use in a poultry house atmosphere by Parker Hannifin, the world leading company in this area.

The N2GF systems are now launched by Anoxia Europe BV in the Netherlands, Belgium and Germany (Lower Saxony and Nord Rhine-Westphalia). Anoxia Europe will be coordinating development of the N2GF technique in consultation with veterinary authorities and will be sharing best practices across Europe. Certified veterinarians will support a proper use of the N2GF system to safeguard animal welfare, in implementation of the relevant EU Regulation 1099/2009.

40 complete N2GF systems will be tested in everyday practice on a variety of poultry farms for stunning and euthanizing of parent stock, turkeys, ducks, layers and broilers. For a special introductory offer, see www.anoxia-europe.com

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For more information contact Dr Michiel van Mil, Anoxia Europe, at
info@anoxia-europe.com or +31-3417016876

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Dossier Taiwan: Reduction risks of spreading of infections during mass outbreaks

During the AI Symposium on managing outbreaks in Taiwan, the main subject was managing the outbreaks without breaching animal welfare during the culling operations. Although it seams impossible, this can be done using the Anoxia method (see also www.N2GF.com for more information), under the condition that the entire process is been taking into account: killing of animals, carcass disposal, transport & logistic, Occupational Health & Safety, environmental issues, pest control, contact between animals and humans: all these factors contribute to the risks of spreading. If one factor fails, the virus can escape and infect the next flock, making it needed to kill more birds. For that reason, all factors are equally important to maintain animal welfare during outbreak situations.

In a number of recently published studies, Professor Stegeman (University of Utrecht, Holland) explains that serologic spreading of viruses is related to human contacts with contaminated infected animals, carcasses, manure and materials infected/suspected animals; movements of farm labourers, products, equipment etc. Most of these contacts (and movements) take place prior, during, and after the culling procedure, whereas the quantity and the intensity of the contacts – thus this human contact/materials are decisive factors for the serologic spreading of viruses to enter farms and most likely play an important role in spreading between farms. Suspicion/infection of farm animals inevitably leads to preventive culling of all farm animals within the direct proximity. For that reason, the serologic spread of viruses has become a major animal welfare indicator that has to be taken into consideration as such.

Each culling procedure features its own unique contact pattern between animals and humans and is based on applied culling, disposal and transport technique. These contact patterns related to the specific combination of applied methods, defines the major contribution factors for spreading of infections. Therefore should the potential risks of these procedures be evaluated and rated on the art and the intensity of the potential contact between animals and humans/materials, prior, during and after the procedure.

Therefore, the entire procedure of killing, disposal and transportation is therefore considered as Major Interest, in terms of animal welfare.

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Dossier H5N8: Wind-Borne Spread of Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza Virus between Farms

The current outbreaks of H5N8 and H5N2 in Europe, North America and Asia it is important to implement high level bio security measures at farms to prevent production animals becoming infected. Once a farm is infected, culling entire flock is the only option to prevent further spreading with devastating consequences for the industry.

During the 2003 outbreaks of H7N7 in Holland the preferred culling technique was whole house gassing, also known as stable gassing.
Practical experience has shown that, in whole house gassing, the birds start to die after approximately 35 minutes and the entire operation ends after 2 to 3 hours. Killing by whole house gassing is most suited to large flocks in floor management systems. Under certain circumstances, it is possible to use whole house gassing in cage or aviary housing.
From the 1.100 farms that have been eradicated, stable gassing has been the technique of choice on 568 farms (51,6% of all farms), culling in total 21.740.000 birds (74,3% of all poultry). On 55 farms (10,7%), Carbon Monoxide (CO) has been used; on 513 farms (90,3%), Carbon Dioxide (CO2) was used.

Before the technique can be applied, the house must be well sealed. The screens and shuttering in an open house mean that it is also possible to make these houses gas-tight in order to carry out whole house gassing. The ventilation is switched off immediately before gassing.

The principle of stable gassing using CO2 is Hypoxia: displacement of atmospheric air by at least 70% , CO2 by volume. The gas is pumped into the house at high pressure and slowly fills the space. Stable gassing is a complicated technique to apply because it is difficult to measure whether the minimum concentration is achieved the animals can be stunned and killed and it is difficult to measure the concentration accurately. Therefore the total amount of gas that is pumped in resembles at least 2 to 3 time the volume of the house.
In order to fill the house with gas, the air in the house has to be replaced, exiting through any channel it can find. Most of the time, that is through ventilation at the top of the building or through cracks in the walls and the roof. The displaced air also causes (possibly) contaminated farm-dust particles and feathers deposited into the open air.

After the poultry is culled and before the dead birds can be collected safely, the house must be ventilated for approximately three hours to ensure rapid and complete removal of the gas from the house air. This ventilation also causes contaminated farm-dust particles from inside the house to deposit to the open air.
To understand the risks of spreading contaminated materials caused by stable gassing, a quantitative understanding of the spread of contaminated farm dust between locations is a prerequisite for obtaining much-needed insight into one of the possible mechanisms of disease spread between farms.

The researchers Amos Ssematimba, Thomas J. Hagenaars, Mart C. M. de Jong of the Dutch Department of Epidemiology, Crisis Organization and Diagnostics, Central Veterinary Institute (CVI) part of Wageningen University and Research Centre, Lelystad, The Netherlands, and Quantitative Veterinary Epidemiology, Department of Animal Sciences, Wageningen University, Wageningen, The Netherland developed a model to calculate the quantity of contaminated farm-dust particles deposited at various locations downwind of a source farm and apply the model to assess the possible contribution of the wind-borne route to the transmission of Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza virus (HPAI) during the 2003 epidemic in the Netherlands.

The model is obtained from a Gaussian Plume Model by incorporating the dust deposition process, pathogen decay, and a model for the infection process on exposed farms. Using poultry- and avian influenza-specific parameter values we calculate the distance-dependent probability of between-farm transmission by this route. A comparison between the transmission risk pattern predicted by the model and the pattern observed during the 2003 epidemic reveals that the wind-borne route alone is insufficient to explain the observations although it could contribute substantially to the spread over short distance ranges, for example, explaining 24% of the transmission over distances up to 25 km.

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Cervical neck dislocation: The legal framework/EU Directive 1099/2009

In Europe, animal welfare is a part of the ‘licence to operate’ for the animal production industry, and the agricultural sector is one of the most heavily regulated sectors in the EU.

Regulation (EC) No 1099/2009 has come into force throughout the EU. The objective pursued by this regulation is to provide a level playing field within the internal market for all operators. Cervical neck dislocation is the traditional method of killing poultry on the farm. What changed after the Regulation 1099/2009 came into force at January 1, 2013 is that farmers are no longer allowed to use neck dislocation as routine method under emergency conditions to kill sick and cripple animals on the farm.

Many farmers lack information about alternative systems and often do not see any advantage in changing their processes, euthanizing sick and cripple animals in a more welfare friendly manner. An important problem is that the use of modern, more advanced animal welfare friendly systems of production often conflicts with economic pressure on operators to reduce costs. Not applying to administrative laws is a serious offense, usually sanctioned with high financial penalties.

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EFSA (AHAW) report on monitoring procedures at poultry slaughterhouses

The EFSA Panel on Animal Health and Welfare (AHAW) was asked to deliver scientific opinions on monitoring procedures at slaughterhouses for different animal species, stunning methods and slaughter without stunning. AHAW agreed that, although it is traditional to look for outcomes of unconsciousness in poultry following stunning, the risk of poor welfare can be detected better if bird welfare monitoring is focused on detecting consciousness, i.e. ineffective stunning or recovery of consciousness.
Therefore, the indicators were phrased neutrally (e.g. corneal reflex) and the outcomes were phrased either suggesting unconsciousness (e.g. absence of corneal reflex) or suggesting consciousness (e.g. presence of corneal reflex). This approach is commonly used in animal health studies (e.g. testing for the presence of a disease) but very new to animal welfare monitoring in slaughterhouses.
A toolbox of selected indicators is proposed to check for signs of consciousness in poultry after stunning with waterbaths or gas mixtures; a different toolbox of indicators is proposed for confirming death of the birds following slaughter without stunning.

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EFSA Guidance on assessment new stunning & slaughter methods

This guidance defines the assessment process and the criteria that will be applied by the Animal Health and Welfare Panel to studies on known new or modified legal stunning interventions to determine their suitability for further assessment.

The criteria that need to be fulfilled are eligibility criteria, reporting quality criteria and methodological quality criteria. The eligibility criteria are based upon the legislation and previously published scientific data. They focus on the intervention and the outcomes of interest, i.e. immediate onset of unconsciousness and insensibility or absence of avoidable pain, distress and suffering until the loss of consciousness and sensibility, and duration of the unconsciousness and insensibility (until death).

If a study fulfils the eligibility criteria, it will be assessed regarding a set of reporting quality criteria that are based on the REFLECT and the STROBE statements. As a final step in this first assessment phase, the methodological quality of the submitted study will be assessed. If the criteria regarding eligibility, reporting quality and methodological quality are fulfilled, a full assessment of the animal welfare implications of the proposed alternative stunning intervention, including both pre-stunning and stunning phases, and an evaluation of the quality, strength and external validity of the evidence presented would be carried out at the next level of the assessment.

In the case that the criteria regarding eligibility and reporting quality and methodological quality are not fulfilled, the assessment report of the panel will highlight the shortcomings and indicate where improvements are required before the study can be assessed further. In addition to the assessment criteria, the guidance also specifies general aspects applicable to studies on stunning interventions that should be considered when studying the effectiveness of stunning interventions.

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European rabbit production in deep trouble

Because in practice, farmed rabbits get sick, old or cannot be used for scientific testing (up to 1/3 of all farmed test animals cannot be used because they don’t fit the test profile), they have to be killed, either at the slaughterhouse (meat production) or on the farm facility. Up to January 1, 2013, using a high concentration of Co2 killed the rabbits.

That process was declared illegal, after the introduction of EU Directive EU 1099/2009 that only allows the following techniques to kill rabbits:

• Penetrative captive bolt device
• Firearm with free projectile
• Percussive blow to the head
• Lethal injection

All these techniques require an intensive contact between animals and operators. In case of an outbreak, using labor-intensive techniques need to be avoided, based on costs and the risks of spreading through human intervention. So what are the options: A new technique needs to be introduced to the European Food Safety Authority EFSA of the scientific committee of DG SANCO.

However sympathetic the scientific committee thinks about the need to develop a new technique for large-scale killing of rabbits, the industry has to take the initiative to present a complete science-based report, that is conducted according to Guidance on the assessment criteria for studies evaluating the effectiveness of stunning interventions regarding animal protection at the time of killing.

The Panel on Animal Health and Welfare was asked to deliver a scientific opinion on the use of carbon dioxide for stunning rabbits. Specifically, EFSA was asked to give its view on the findings of the study performed by the Polytechnic University of Valencia (Spain) and the Animal Technology Centre CITA-ITAVIA “Estudio sobre la valoración mediante parámetros técnicos y de manejo del sistema de aturdimiento con gas CO2”. (red: “Study on the assessment by technical parameters and system management with CO2 gas stunning.”).

The answer was not at all satisfactory for the rabbit industry: As a first step, the type of study, critical variables, experimental design, data collection and analysis and reporting methods needed to supply scientific evidence that the use of CO2 is an acceptable alternative for the stunning of rabbits were defined. These criteria were then applied to the study.

The submitted study was not adequate for a full welfare assessment of the alternative method studied because it does not fulfill the eligibility criteria and the reporting quality criteria defined, according to the opinion of the committee. Follow this link to se the entire report. The rabbit industry has to raise sufficient funds to bring forward a complete report, ticking all the boxes, to enable EFSA to review the killing method proposed. First after EFSA is convinced that the proposed method is an improvement, the technique is accepted, meaning that in line with EU 1099/2009 all criteria like training & certification described in EU 1099/2009 need to be in considered as well.

Why is this so significant? Let’s assume that the rabbit industry would like to use the Anoxia method for killing rabbits. The method needs to go through the entire EFSA procedure before it can be applied within the rabbit industry. That would be the best option, but it still include going to the entire process of approval.

This makes it so hard to introduce better and more animal welfare friendly techniques like the Anoxia method to be applied within the EU. The rabbit industry is relatively small, but they have to fulfill the rules within the directive, if not, it will be the end of this industry if they do not come up with a solution that is validated and approved by EFSA.

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