Farmers restocking their flocks as bird flu winds down

Published 3:04 pm Saturday, July 25, 2015

MINNEAPOLIS — Three months after bird flu wiped out two of Greg Langmo’s flocks, he’s among the first to start raising turkeys again.

He lost half of a year’s normal production and income and won’t be able to sell turkeys for months, but the central Minnesota farmer feels good to be getting back to normal.

“It’s nerve-racking for sure,” Langmo said with a laugh. “You just don’t know when things are going to go over the edge. But you’ve got to go at some point. We can’t just sit here.”

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The U.S. hasn’t detected any new cases of H5N2 avian influenza in over a month, so the focus has shifted to recovery and preparations in case wild birds that can carry the disease bring it back this fall, as they migrate south. A USDA update Friday said scientists still haven’t nailed down the specific ways the virus spreads from the wild into barns but research is continuing in Iowa, Nebraska, Minnesota, the Dakotas and Wisconsin.

The toll was large: more than 48 million chickens and turkeys lost in the U.S. Minnesota, the country’s top turkey producing state, lost 9 million turkeys and chickens, and Iowa, the No. 1 egg producer, lost 34 million birds on 77 farms.