A new update from the University of Illinois Farmdoc daily newsletter reports that the 2014-15 outbreak of bird flu in the U.S. is the largest recorded – topping outbreaks in 1924, 1983 and 2004.
According to "An Outbreak unlike Any Other: Perspective on the 2014-2015 Avian Influenza" authors John Newton and Todd Kuethe, the 1983 outbreak resulted in the depopulation of 17 million poultry.
The current 2014-15 outbreak exceeds the previous 1983 record by nearly 9 million birds, and the toll is still growing.
While the numbers are large the outbreak in chickens is a small portion of the layer inventory, the report says, which USDA estimates at 362 million as of March 2015. Using this estimate, Kuethe and Newton report that the 20.3 million confirmed cases of bird flu in chickens represents just 5.6% of the layer population.
"However, this outbreak is historic in proportion to previous outbreaks, and state-level data presents a much more alarming outlook," they write.
Confirmed cases of bird flu in turkeys represents more than one-quarter of the slaughter volume (19.9 million turkeys during March 2015) at 26.6%.
With 3.6 million confirmed cases in turkeys in April 2015, 97% of Minnesota's monthly slaughter volume is represented by confirmed bird flu cases during April alone, the authors note.
It has been suggested that due to the time needed to feed turkeys to slaughter and the large proportion of the monthly slaughter affected by the bird flu, Kuethe and Newton said, turkey supplies during Thanksgiving 2015 could be disrupted.
Number and type of birds by infection date >>
For chickens, USDA's April 21 Chicken and Eggs report indicated there were more than 59 million layers producing 1.4 billion eggs in Iowa during March 2015.
With 18.6 million confirmed cases of the bird flu in Iowa's chicken population thus far, this total represents the equivalent of 31% of the layers and more than 400 million eggs.
"The poultry industry will likely adjust to tighter egg supplies, but the presence of the bird flu in the chicken population will likely continue to limit export opportunities for broiler meat until the virus is contained," Kuethe and Newton write.
Continue reading the Farmdoc Daily report: An Outbreak unlike Any Other: Perspective on the 2014-2015 Avian Influenza