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Saskatchewan farm loses turkey stock following avian flu infestation

Click to play video: 'Local farm faces low poultry stock following avian flu' Local farm faces low poultry stock following avian flu
WATCH ABOVE: The Saskatchewan government confirmed cases of avian influenza in birds earlier this week. As Kabi Moulitharan tells us, it means one local farm is struggling to serve its customers. – Sep 23, 2022

It’s been a difficult week for Melanie Boldt, co-owner of Pine View Farms in Saskatoon, as she wraps her head around what to do next.

Avian influenza came home to roost pretty closely when our partner producer who raises turkeys for us on their farm detected (it),” Boldt explained.

“They detected avian influenza about 10 days ago. And because of that, all the live birds on the farm had to be depopulated, including the flock of turkeys that they were raising for us.”

Read more: Avian influenza reported in Saskatchewan

In a news release on Wednesday, the province issued an Animal Health Order after confirming avian influenza was detected.

“Our order is specifically prohibiting events where birds are comingling from multiple sources so primarily poultry shows and sales,” Dr. Stephanie Smith, chief veterinary officer with the Ministry of Agriculture told Global News.

“The health order will be in place until October 21, 2022, at which time it will be reviewed,” the news release read.

Read more: Avian flu in Canada: Everything you need to know

When the virus hit close to home, Boldt said it is devastating for everyone involved.

“Our first thoughts were for (our partner producer) because this is devastating for their farm,” she said. “And then also for us and for our customers, the stores and butcher shops throughout Saskatchewan who buy from us, and ultimately the end consumer, because we may not be able to serve them with a turkey this year. And that kind of breaks our hearts just a little bit.”

Boldt is not alone.

According to the Turkey Farmers of Saskatchewan, two of their operating facilities have been affected by the disease.

“One tested positive at the end of August and the second one about two weeks ago,” a statement to Global News reads.

“The loss for Saskatchewan is approximately 19,000 birds. This represents about 100,000 kg of turkey out of Saskatchewan’s annual production of over 6 million kg,” it added.

Dr. Smith said it’s normal to see the risk during migration seasons and believes it will settle by November.

She reminded residents that the risks for residents is minimal.

“A lot of people do hunt wild birds as well and have their own poultry that could be affected. The primary risk to people if they are handling sick birds or (ones that) have died from avian flu. The real risk for humans contracting is still quite low,” she said.

Read more: First case of avian influenza confirmed in Nunavut in infected wild bird

Back at Pine View Farms, Boldt said the loss will impact their sales.

“For us, with Thanksgiving, it is definitely one of our most profitable times of the year,” Boldt said. “We are now scrambling to salvage our Thanksgiving turkey market.”

Despite some of the losses of the flocks, the Turkey Farmers of Saskatchewan said this shouldn’t impact supply chain issues.

“Turkey Farmers of Saskatchewan and all other provinces grow turkey all year round. So there still should be plenty of turkey available to consumers here in Saskatchewan,” their statement read.

“Consumers might need to get creative in their search for the exact weight bird they are looking for but they will see whole turkeys at various grocery stores.”

Read more: Biologist suspects avian flu behind alarming amount of dead birds found on N.B. coast

Vendors like Boldt, however, hope customers will continue to support local and find other products.

“Maybe buy a ham, or roast chicken, or a beef roast,” Boldt pleaded.

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