The BC Ministry of Agriculture & Food has issued a general order under the Animal Health Act stating all live poultry in commercial operations must be maintained indoors until May 13, placing some small-scale producers in limbo.
The order, initially issued on April 13, stated all commercial poultry must be kept indoors due to BC’s discovering cases of the “bird flu,” or highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI). Knowing the impact this order would have on the poultry industry, a local organization took action to seek clarity and accommodation for small scale operations such as some of those operating in the Nicola Valley.
“When the initial order came down it said that all commercial flocks had to be kept indoors, which is obviously not feasible for most people,” said Julia Smith, executive director for the Small Scale Meat Producers Association (SSMPA). “We immediately responded to this order and met with the ministry to get this provision changed.”
HPAI is highly infectious, and can lead to various adverse effects on poultry populations. Higher than normal death rate, sharp drop in egg production and consumption of water, respiratory problems, and difficulty walking are among signs of the deadly virus. According to the SSMPA, preventative safety measures are top priority.
“We’re trying to support producers to take measures to protect their flocks and all of the flocks in BC from this highly contagious virus. We provided the Ministry of Agriculture with some enhanced biosecurity protocols specifically for small-scale poultry producers with outdoor flocks. There’s a conditional exemption now so people can continue to keep their flocks outside, but they have to follow these biosecurity protocols.”
These protocols are based on a 2013 report entitled “Protect My Flock,” which laid out steps for commercial poultry producers to reduce the risk of infectious disease transfer within their poultry flocks.
The guidelines producers must follow to continue to maintain their flock in an outdoor space includes drawing a farm map, establishing restricted and controlled access zones to limit contact with the birds, use of personal protective equipment to WorkSafeBC standards, and canceling unnecessary in-person farm visits and activities.
The full list of guidelines can be found on the Ministry of Agriculture & Food website, and SSMPA recommends implementing them all. Smith also urges those not in the poultry industry to do their part, recommending a pause on the feeding of wild birds.
“We’re all really good at disinfecting now,” joked Smith. “So take the disinfectant out of your truck and put it at the entrance of your zone.”
Smith says the relationship between her organization and the ministry has been productive, and was happy to see results so quickly.
“The policy and legislation branch reached out to me immediately. We had a good talk, and the next morning we got cracking on putting the enhanced biosecurity protocol together.The Ministry immediately rescinded the original order and re-issued the order with this new conditional exemption.”
Moving forward, the SSMPA is focused on supporting its members and the agriculture industry as a whole. Smith invites those looking to stay “abreast” on issues such as these to join the association as a free member, and noted that producer memberships are available for a small cost.
Those seeking more information on this order, as well as other initiatives the SSMPA is involved in, should visit: smallscalemeat.ca/enhanced-biosecurity-protocols-for-small-scale-poultry-producers/.