Monday, March 14, 2016



By Coop Kohli, AU Lakes Zone Director
In January of this year, avian influenza (AI) (H7N8) was again discovered to have infected 10 confined turkey houses in Dubois county in south central Indiana, leading to the slaughter of some 240,000 turkeys.  No other flocks in the control area were found to have been affected.  The virus was determined to be low-pathogenic AI in 9 houses, but had mutated to highly pathogenic AI in one house, and it is the mutation of these low pathogenic viruses into highly pathogenic viruses that creates so much concern.  Poultry flocks with low pathogenic viruses often show few symptoms, but if you come in one morning, and find half of your flock dead with no warning, you are probably dealing with a highly pathogenic virus.  Therein lies the difference.  
Last fall, I was vilified by some peers for "getting too involved with State Vets" with the avian influenza issue as it confronted flyers in Michigan and Ohio, and by others, almost simultaneously, for "not doing enough with State Vets" on this issue.  While the AU had success in Michigan last summer in getting young bird racing back on track, making progress in Ohio proved to be much more difficult, and there is little doubt in my mind that this challenge will confront us again this spring when the goose migration begins.   
The ban in Indiana, Ohio and Michigan prohibiting the co-mingling of poultry, at this moment, has been rescinded, but what we have learned in talking with these folks is that the AU's Loft Certification program is an important component in helping regulators find comfort with our sport.  Here's why.
In my home county, we have a major "exotic animal swap meet" at a local livestock sale complex twice a year.  This thing is huge, and has grown exponentially.  Vendors come in by the hundreds, and buyers and traders come in by the thousands.  People come in from all over the place and wander around the grounds shoulder to shoulder for three days and nights.  Exotic animals are in cages in every corner, or are hanging out the back-end of nearly every pickup truck.  The sellers and buyers are anonymous characters, independent wheeler­dealers, unconnected, unconcerned,  and hauling along every type of varmint you can imagine from ferrets to camels.  It is like the wild west, and it’s a riot, unless you're a blood-tester for the State Veterinarian's office, and have to explain how the state's next major livestock disease outbreak took place right under your nose.  For these veterinarians, it is a sobering experience.  Imagine the media pressure, the time requirements, the man-power needs, the potential effect on the livestock markets, and the cost to the state of rounding up information on anonymous participants if someone unknowingly brought in hoof and mouth disease.  Anticipating contagious disease events at formats like this preoccupies the thinking of State Veterinarians.
And, this is exactly the type of vision of our sport we do not want in the mind of a regulator when it comes time to influence state rule making.  Our best opportunity to influence his decisions depends on our ability to convince him that we are a group of well organized, concerned senior citizens, serious about our civic responsibilities regarding the spread of disease, tied together into a close community of pigeon racing enthusiasts that is striving to learn, to protect, and to grow our great sport.  We want him to see us as being governed by a reasonable standard of husbandry that we all buy into, that is guided by our scientific task force, and that we are propelled forward by our love of the sport, not by the greed typically associated with people gaming animals.
provides that link.  It is a must in the AU arsenal of tools needed to reach our goals as we deal with regulators.  This is not a program designed to thrust unneeded "AU enforcement" onto innocent, unsuspecting racing pigeon fanciers.  Animal agriculture in this country understands, and has long accepted, the need for "premise identification", and the USDA can now trace a piece of contaminated meat backwards from your table to the farm that produced it.  As a sport, we need to get in line.  Nobody wants the government nosing around on their property, or telling them what to do, and this is not a government program.  However, we will not overcome inevitable regulatory challenges that can limit our sport without overwhelming participation in this program, or some version of it.  The state of Michigan now requires AU loft certification for pigeon racing, along with a “premise ID”.  When I next meet with the Michigan State Vet, I know we will be reviewing our association’s progress on this matter.  It was important enough to him to request from the AU office, an up­dated list every week.  And this was a request from a regulator that was very helpful and positive in his handling of our plea for fairness and open-mindedness.  Any lack of follow-through will trip up progress the next time we seek his sympathy and understanding.  We will have unwittingly played into the hands of the groups wanting to shut us down.

This is the age of 24/7 news.  Regulators want assurances that they are dealing with organizations that are reputable, and with people from whom they won’t get burned.  Programs that provide cover to regulators from news media and critics in times of trouble are preferable.  Please give the AU your immediate support in protecting your hobby by getting your loft registered.  We each need to take ownership of this issue.  During trying times, this becomes a big deal.  If we hope to race pigeons in Michigan and Ohio, it will become a part of our world.  It won’t be negotiable.  Please take the necessary 15 minutes, and get it behind you.  The process is simple.  For more explanation, I can be reached at 330 464 3866.
The AU now has Dr. Glyde Marsh, a highly regarded Ohio poultry veterinarian, on retainer as part of its effort to update State Veterinarians on the relationship between avian influenza and racing pigeons.  This cost is being paid on your behalf by the AU.
This is an important addition to our effort to influence the State Veterinarian's office and the veterinarians that advise Ohio poultry companies, for Dr. Marsh is well known and highly respected in avian disease circles within the state.  Our ability to communicate with these important decision-makers has now been made much easier.  
Dr. Marsh lives in New Albany, Ohio, and has been working with Ohio poultry companies for over 50 years.  Twice he has received the Ohio Poultry industry’s prestigious "Golden Egg" award for his contributions to Ohio's egg, chicken and turkey communities.  Forty-one years ago, Dr. Marsh was also my advisor in Poultry Science at the Ohio State University, where he was the university's Poultry Vet for three decades.  Now semi-retired, Marsh has continued to consult with Ohio poultry companies, while he also serves on the New Albany city council.  A Lieutenant Colonel in the military police during WW II, last summer, Marsh was recognized by the Ohio State Legislature for being the oldest elected official in the state.  Being a politician adds to his effectiveness.  
Dr. Marsh has the ability to connect with all of the individuals in the state that have influence on the ability of our sport to prosper in Ohio, and he has been around long enough to know how to operate in, and around, the State Diagnostic Lab “under the radar.” We need his advice, and we are certainly thankful for his help.