Bird flu impacts SA chicken industry

Bird flu has wiped out nearly 90% of laying hens in the Western Cape. As a result, consumers will experience table egg shortages.

The South African Veterinary Association says that by early October, more than 3,5-million commercial egg laying hens had died from the disease or had been culled under State supervision to try to limit the spread of bird flu.

This represents 20% of the national flock. Fresh poultry meat supply is also under pressure due to the loss of broiler breeder flocks.

Wild birds, especially ducks, play a significant role in the transmission of bird flu and bird owners are urged to keep their birds away from wild birds.

Even free-range chickens are being affected as large producers have had to bring their chickens indoors to prevent contact with wild birds.

The strain of bird flu that is affecting South Africa has been reported in more than 47 countries and has been responsible for more than 2000 outbreaks worldwide since 2016. No human cases have been reported. Consumers are assured that they will not contract bird flu from eating poultry or eggs.

Impact on commercial chicken/egg producers

When the disease is diagnosed on a farm, typically all chickens on the farm must be culled. The farm will then stand empty for 3-6 months before replacement birds can begin to be reintroduced. Restocking may take a year. To date, producers have had to carry the cost of the loss of the birds, the culling and the destruction of feed and eggs that were on their farms.

There is no clear end in sight to the current outbreak, says SAVA.

article by Dr Shahn Bisschop, VetNews