Saskatchewan farm loses turkey stock following bird flu infestation

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It’s been a tough week for Melanie Boldt, co-owner of Pine View Farms in Saskatoon, as she ponders what to do next.

“Bird flu came to roost pretty close when our grower partner who raises turkeys for us on his farm detected it,” Boldt explained.

“They detected the bird flu about 10 days ago. And because of that, all the living birds on the farm had to be depopulated, including the flock of turkeys they raised for us.

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In a news release Wednesday, the province issued an animal health order after confirming the detection of avian flu.

“Our order specifically prohibits events where birds mix from multiple sources, so primarily poultry shows and sales,” Agriculture Department chief veterinarian Dr. Stephanie Smith told Global News.

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“The health order will be in place until October 21, 2022, when it will be reviewed,” the press release said.

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

“Our first thoughts were for (our partner producer) because this is devastating to their farm,” she said. “And then also for us and for our customers, the stores and butchers all over 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 kinda breaks our hearts.

Boldt is not alone.

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

“One tested positive in late August and the second about two weeks ago,” a statement to Global News read.

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

Dr Smith said it was normal to see the risk during migration seasons and believes it will subside by November.

She reminded residents that the risks to residents are minimal.

“Many people also hunt wild birds and have their own poultry which could be affected. The main risk for people handling sick birds or (those who) have died from avian influenza. The actual risk for humans to contract is still quite low,” she said.

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

“For us, along with Thanksgiving, it’s definitely one of our most profitable times of the year,” Boldt said. “We are now working to save our Thanksgiving turkey market.”

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Despite some of the flock losses, Saskatchewan turkey farmers said it shouldn’t impact supply chain issues.

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

“Consumers may have to get creative in finding the exact weight of the bird they are looking for, but they will see whole turkeys in various grocery stores.”

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However, vendors like Boldt hope customers will continue to support local products and find other products.

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

© 2022 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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