Minnesota farmers' concerns grow over new bird flu strain

Minnesota’s 2015 bird flu outbreak left 9 million turkeys dead after outbreaks in about a quarter of the state’s counties. But this year a new strain of the flu has some farmers even more worried

"It’s very devastating to a farmer to have to euthanize or kill off their livestock that they put a lot of time and money into," Northfield farmer John Zimmerman told FOX 9. "It’s emotionally difficult, as well as financially difficult."

Poultry farming is big business in Minnesota, because the state leads the nation in turkey production, but that also means the influenza could have significant consequences here.

"By the time you notice it, 40 to 50 percent are sick and within 24 hours 90 percent are sick," Zimmerman said. "We euthanize the birds because the mortality rate is going to be 90 percent plus. Birds do not survive this; highly pathogenic avian influenza is terminal it will kill off your flock."

Zimmerman has nearly 25,000 turkeys in his Northfield flock, but with lessons learned from 2015, he also feels more prepared this time around. Biosecurity around the farm is beefed up and he’s on the lookout for any signs that his birds suddenly appear more tired or quiet. 

"I’m very concerned… the next 30 to 60 days are going to be critical to managing this outbreak," Zimmerman finished. "We’re watching things very carefully right now and just hoping for the best."

This latest strain of the bird flu has also thrown people off because it’s not just spreading between turkeys, but also in chickens and geese, through bird droppings and fluids.