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January 12, 2015

Insuring Poultry Flocks In Case Of Catastrophic Disease

Funding was included in the 2014 Farm Bill to determine the feasibility of insuring poultry producers for a catastrophic disease event.  As you know, USDA has offered crop insurance for many years - but never for poultry.   

Chickens put down with carbon dioxide due to Avian Influenza infection

Part of the required research is gathering input from those that might be involved or interested.  Watts and Associates (W&A) of Billings, Montana was hired to do this research.  W&A is interested in gathering information on the level of concern associated with catastrophic diseases in the poultry industry, risk management techniques related to such diseases, share of risk held by integrators and growers, and impressions about the current programs to assist with the costs associated with depopulation, cleaning, disinfection, and heightened surveillance procedures when there is a catastrophic disease event.

Besides a fire in our hatchery or a duck building, my biggest worry is a major disease -  specifically a "bad" salmonella or avian influenza.  Depopulation is the answer to these situations and with all our birds on one farm, we are very susceptible to this solution.  Therefore I am very interested in this type of insurance and will be attending the meeting in Atlanta as I will be at the International Poultry Expo.

As you may know, Avian Influenza has recently been discovered in Oregon, Washington, California and British Columbia, Canada.  Many commercial flocks of poultry have been destroyed in Canada.  So far the only birds destroyed in the US are large backyard flocks and a commercial turkey flock in California.  But what if you had a pastured poultry operation, your birds became infected with Avian Influenza from wild ducks and lost all your birds due to the infection or depopulation by the authorities?  Would you want insurance for something like this?  If you are a contracted grower, does your contract cover you should this happen to you?

Pair of wild Mallards.  Are they carrying AI?  Have they visited your birds?
I understand many of you do not have large enough flocks to insure, but if you do, you might want to attend one of these meetings.  Or if you know someone that would be interested, please tell them.  If there is not enough interest shown in insuring poultry at these meetings, it will be difficult for the USDA to pursuit it further.

Meetings are scheduled in the following locations:

January 26    1:30pm     Georgia World Conference Center (preceding the
    Monday                       International Poultry Expo)
                                        Room 410-A
                                        Atlanta, GA

February 3    2:00pm     St. Cloud Holiday Inn and Suites, St. Cloud Room
    Tuesday                      75 37th Avenue South
                                        St. Cloud, MN 

February 10  10:00am   Stanislaus County Harvest Hall, Modesto, CA
    Tuesday                       THIS MEETING HAS BEEN CANCELED.  IT WILL BE
                                        RESCHEDULED AFTER THE AI THREAT IN CALIFORNIA
                                        HAS BEEN BROUGHT UNDER CONTROL

February 12  9:00am      Farm and Home Foundation of Lancaster County
    Thursday                      1383 Arcadia Road
                                         Lancaster, PA

If you cannot attend a meeting and have input for W&A, email Randy Landgren.

January 01, 2015

Sebastopol Geese Hatching and Raising Their Own Goslings

The following story was written by Susan Valdina and is about her pair of Sebastopol geese that successfully hatched and raised several sets of goslings.

No-Work Hatching in New England
“Shrek and Fiona arrived in the mail all the way from Metzer Farms in California to a small island in Maine. That was May of 2011. This has been my second winter raising goslings and learning how to sit on my hands and not help my adult Sebastopol geese.

This photo was taken after I allowed Fiona and Shrek to get in too much water.  Oh Dear!  Then we warmed them up.  Photo by Louis Segal

This year Fiona hatched her babies almost two weeks earlier than last year (March) and built her
nest in the old shed. Her incubator savvy is perfect. I would see her leave her nest at least twice a day (although it may have been more often and I didn't witness it. She would go to the water and dip her head and then put water on her breast feathers. Proper humidity you know.

Fiona on her nest.

I looked for an opportunity to peek at the nest and get an egg count and finally got it. Looking at the nest is quite amazing. They put goose down and straw or hay and other bits of "yard" to both build their nest and to make a thick blanket over the eggs, which appears to have an R-value of 50. I exaggerate - however, it is amazing how warm it is under that blanket. 

One new gosling peaking out.

She hatched nine out of ten eggs! 

More goslings!!
When her babies hatched in the deep cold, I resisted grabbing the whole family and bringing them in the house with me. I told myself over and over that they would be fine and to resist that urge. It was torture until I saw them all out one cold day walking around on their own!! They were only a day old then and seemed fine. Every few minutes they would all huddle under both Shrek and Fiona, then wander again.
Shrek with the goslings

I feed hay before the grass is up and game bird crumble. Shrek takes on as much of the watching as Fiona. They both warm cold ones and take them for walks. I'm learning too. I set out shallow water dishes for the goslings so they can't get too wet. I wonder how they manage around ponds in the wild?”

Supplying water to the goslings.
Until I received this letter from Susan I was not sure if Sebastopol would hatch their own eggs and make good parents. This answers that question - they can make excellent parents. Look what Fiona and Shrek did in Maine in March!  We have found that Sebastopol are very broody – meaning they want to make nests and sit on eggs. As we collect eggs every day, they will end up sitting on empty nests or nests with clods of dirt or chunks of wood as eggs. The problem with broodiness is they stop laying eggs while they are broody.

Hey!  Who is that?
Some of the unique characteristics of Sebastopol geese is they start laying earlier than all other breeds, peak in egg production earlier than all other breeds and then abruptly drop off in production much earlier than all other breeds of domestic geese (probably because so many go broody). So if you want Sebastopol goslings, it is best to order them to arrive early in the season. Usually our peak Sebastopol gosling production is in late March.

Thank you Susan for this wonderful story.  If you have a story about your ducks or geese and have pictures, send it all to us!  Maybe we can get yours published, too.