The Georgia Poultry Federation has initiated a targeted campaign educating poultry farmers about this fall’s impending risks of avian influenza (AI) and the biosecurity measures that can be used to prevent it. To date, the AI campaign has been embraced statewide by Georgia’s poultry companies and growers.
“What we’re doing is not scare tactics,” says Mike Giles, president of the Georgia Poultry Federation. “There is a very real risk of poultry farms being infected as wild birds begin their migratory flights down south with colder weather.”
Giles added that the risk of AI “is real – and potentially could be devastating to our North Georgia region and the entire state economy.”
Working with the Gainesville-based marketing agency Morton Vardeman & Carlson, the Georgia Poultry Federation has developed a themed campaign encouraging poultry growers to be “all in” with biosecurity measures to avoid losing their entire flocks to avian influenza.
The campaign theme “All In or All Gone” is being promoted via a myriad of marketing strategies that includes an education website (ALLinALLgone.com), periodic email messages sent directly to the farmers, and various promotional signs displayed at farms and on vehicles.
“We have had tremendous cooperation from poultry companies throughout the state,” said Giles. “With their support, we have gathered the e-mail addresses for poultry farmers in Georgia as part of this education campaign. That has been a huge boost to the campaign.”
The messages are also being delivered to poultry growers at biosecurity training meetings held throughout the state.
The e-mail campaign is planned around a series of messages educating farmers about simple biosecurity measures such as stepping into a disinfectant pan every time a poultry house is entered. The e-mails include Spanish and Vietnamese translations to ensure that the messages are understood by all workers on the farms.
The AI disease knows no borders, Giles said, so the Federation has agreed to share the campaign with other poultry and turkey associations across the country that have expressed an interest in joining the campaign.
The current strain of AI only affects birds, not humans. The source of the virus is typically wild birds such as ducks and geese. Once the virus infects a single chicken or turkey, the disease can spread rapidly and wipe out an entire flock.
The Georgia Poultry Laboratory Network, based in Gainesville, regularly monitors Georgia’s poultry flocks for AI. A statewide response plan is in place if AI were to infect one or more poultry houses. Parts of the plan include establishment of a six-mile control zone around the infected farm.
“We are doing everything possible to be prepared to respond to AI in Georgia,” Giles said. “The industry is working closely with our state and federal partners to make sure that we are ready for something that we hope never happens.”
Giles stressed that an AI outbreak can still be avoided if every Georgia poultry farmer follows the biosecurity measures outlined in the All In education campaign. “That’s why we say it’s critical that we’re all in.”