Bird Flu Precautions Taken

As Appleby poultry grower Mike Meador goes about his daily chores, something of importance weighs heavy on his mind. He's knows bird flu could be a big blow to the industry he and his dad support.

"You always have it in the back of your mind to be careful of this. And with this type they'll take the whole place if you happen to get it here. It is a big concern," said Meador outside one of his six broiler houses he owns and operates.

When bird flu strikes, depopulation is the only answer, followed by quarantine. So everyone in the industry is taking the necessary precautions.

Outside most contract growers farms are signs reading, "Stop, No Visitors Allowed". Biosecurity measures are strictly enforced.

At Stephen F. Austin State University's broiler houses students are restricted if they've been exposed to any other poultry.

SFA Agriculture Professor Dr. Tim Cherry wants SFA to set a standard in the prevention of bird flu.

"It could be devastating if it gets into commercial operations and so they are very much taking it serious. Wearing plastic disposable boots, overalls when they visit farms. One farmer not visiting another farm, not having contact with outside poultry," explained Cherry.

Cases of the bird flu have been found as near as Houston, and the goal is to keep the germ away from East Texas flocks.

In that effort, Dr. Tim Cherry is considering the cancellation of a broiler show that SFA is hosting next month. And, he's also nervous about the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo's Broiler show.

Beginning next week flocks from all over the state will be brought to the largest livestock show in the Southwest.

Livestock Show Manager Michael Cooper told the East Texas News that precautions against bird flu will be taken.

As always the poultry show will be held off site in Fort Bend County and for the first time ever the top twenty turkeys and broilers will not be brought to Reliant Stadium for the grand champion selection. Nor will there be any poultry exhibits.

Cooper points out that the shows are terminal which means the birds will be processed.

Meanwhile, Mike Meador takes his own precautions. He will disinfect his six broiler houses in preparation for the arrival of chicks.

The confidence he has in his contract grower helps him remain calm and collected.

"They know how to contain it if it starts getting out of hand. We hope it doesn't get in this area. If it gets in this area everybody's concern rises," said Meador.