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Government should promote use of poultry vaccine

Reg Taylor farms at Ogema, Sask.

While watching television news recently, I saw a report that really made me angry. This was the report about a 40,000-bird poultry operation having to destroy its entire flock due to an outbreak of laryngotracheitis (ILT).

The outbreak was blamed on “small-flock poultry operations and fancy flocks” by the veterinarians being interviewed. They implied that small and fancy flocks are a hotbed of unchecked disease and to kill everything that had been in contact with them is the only solution.

I have raised fancy poultry for well over 50 years so I know something about poultry and their diseases. Twelve or 13 years ago my poultry had an outbreak of ILT. I tried to purchase the vaccine everywhere in Saskatchewan. No one appeared to carry it. A vet in Ontario. told me where I could purchase the vaccine. I took all of the information to our local vet and he got it for me. I have been using it every year since.

Each $13 vial of vaccine will do 1,000 birds, a cost of 1.3 cents per bird. The vaccine is packaged to do 1,000 birds, designed for the large commercial operation, not the fancier who is vaccinating only 25 or 30 birds at a time. The vaccine is made from “modified” live virus so there is no danger of it causing ILT.

Even if the birds hadn’t been vaccinated in advance, the vet in Ontario said that if ILT is suspected, the group of affected birds should be isolated and the rest vaccinated at once. If this had been done, most of those birds could have been saved. Of course, it’s easier to kill them all and have Roy Romanow’s government pay compensation.

So much for the high cost of vaccine. Dan Stewart of the Saskatchewan Chicken Marketing Board told the Western Producer that vaccinating chickens “missed the point of biological security which is designed to prevent diseases.”

I would be surprised if the birds in these barns were not vaccinated against Marek’s disease when they were hatched and they probably have medications in their feed to help them fight off infections. There goes the “biological security.” They took a gamble and lost and now expect to get bailed out by Saskatchewan taxpayers.

My problem with this whole situation is the veterinarians at the University of Saskatchewan. They knew this disease was in the province for at least the last 12 years. They should have been promoting this vaccine to small-flock owners, fanciers and big commercial operators.

I resent the implication that small-flock owners and fanciers have disease-ridden flocks. Maybe the odd one does, but I have seen commercial barns that would give you nightmares. To blame us for spreading disease is ludicrous.

As far as killing birds that don’t meet high standards, we would wipe out about 99 percent of the world’s gene pool.

The department of agriculture in Ottawa is beginning to realize that backyard flocks are the only remaining samples of a large number of the old and exotic breeds.

The only way ILT will ever be stamped out is through a complete vaccination program for all flocks, large and small. It would be cheaper for government to supply ILT vaccine free to all flocks than to pay $100,000 or more to large commercial poultry producers every few years.

(Barry Wilson is on vacation.)

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