Avian influenza not expected to disrupt Thanksgiving turkey prices and stock

After just a three to four month break from avian influenza, the poultry industry is reeling again from another outbreak that has swept across the U.S., but this one isn’t expected to disrupt holiday turkey prices as much as last year.

The outbreak began in early October, said Greg Archer, Ph.D., Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service poultry specialist and associate professor in the Texas A&M Department of Poultry Science, Bryan-College Station. More than 1.4 million poultry nationwide, including 800,000 turkeys, have been lost due to the outbreak.

The most recent USDA National Weekly Turkey Report, from Nov. 3, does not show turkey prices reaching last year’s high, with the fresh market price for 8-16 pound and 16-24 pound whole turkeys between $1.16 to $1.74 per pound, and frozen 8-16 pound and 16-24 pound whole turkeys ranging between 91 cents per pound to $1.22 per pound.

Archer said consumers might want to plan ahead, just in case the latest avian influenza begins to affect prices.

“Buy your turkey early and store it in your freezer,” Archer said.


Avian Influenza strikes again

Last year, the poultry industry lost almost 60 million birds, including egg laying hens and turkeys between February and late December. Outbreaks waned this year, but Archer said winter bird migrations, including waterfowl, triggered a new outbreak.

The disease hits the turkey populations especially hard because of the time it takes to raise birds from hatch to harvest and flocks raised in open-sided houses.

Hatchling turkeys reach harvest weights in 10 to18 weeks, which means they are at an increased risk of potential exposure to the pathogen. It takes 3.5-5.5 months to replace a flock lost to avian influenza.

Producers follow biosecurity and sanitary practices to help prevent diseases from entering their facilities, but avian influenza pathogens that do enter lead to total flock losses, he said.  

“Until we figure out a way to fully prevent it from entering the industry, the disease will continue to mutate,” Archer said.

AgriLife Extension district reporters compiled the following summaries:

A map of Texas divided into regions



The week started with the first frost. Temperatures rose significantly throughout the rest of the week. Some counties missed the hard freeze, which helped livestock producers take advantage of some late-season grass growth. With the temperature drop, some counties saw a few plants freeze. Some counties saw additional rain, which deteriorated field conditions, but allowed some runoff to occur to raise stock tank water levels and streams. The rain also improved topsoil moisture. Pastures and grains responded quickly to the rainfall. In areas where additional rain was not seen, pasture conditions continued to decline due to shortening days and freeze damage. Fall small grains were being planted. Wheat planted for grain harvest was expected to emerge soon. Oats that had already been planted for grazing were looking well. There was hope that the cooler, wetter weather had set armyworms back enough that they wouldn’t be seen again. Many producers were supplementing diets with hay and other supplements. Cattle remain in good body condition.



Recent rainfall boosted the young wheat crop. Producers in the northern counties saw some slowing down in wheat growth due to the freezing temperatures, but overall, the crop looked good. What little cotton that remained harvestable was coming out of the fields, all reported as mostly poor to fair. Most livestock in grazing pastures were still being fed with additional hay and supplements to counter the nutrient shortage in the emerging pasture grasses for now. Several counties reported an increase in wildlife activity during daylight hours.



Dry weather combined with low humidity allowed hay producers to cut hay one last time this season. This was a much-needed cutting due to the hay shortage resulting from the drought. Some producers were baling up roadsides. Many warm-season perennial grasses slowed significantly due to short days and cooler nights. Winter pasture planting continued. There have been widespread reports of armyworms. Producers were working to clean up fields and fertilize. Livestock remained in good condition. Market prices were strong with numbers staying high. Stock pond water levels improved and were adequate to average. Some pecans were being harvested.



The district had its first frost of the season, as well as some rainfall. Pasture and rangeland conditions were good to poor. Subsoil and topsoil conditions were adequate. Producers in some areas were still trying to cut their remaining hay crops. Rusk County reported that livestock had plenty to forage on for now. Smith County reported that cool-season annual legumes and forages were starting to grow. Livestock were in fair to good condition, with some supplementation taking place. Wild pig activity was reported.



Dry condition helped farmers continue with the cotton harvest. They were extremely busy trying to get cotton harvested before the next rain. They were also busy planting wheat as soon as the cotton was stripped. Grain ranges from fair to good condition across much of the district. The cattle were in good condition. Native grasses were starting to go into the dormant stage with the freezing weather this past week.



The region continued to have very dry conditions. Several mornings of hard freeze moved harvest to completion. Corn harvest was completed in most counties. Most of the late sorghum and corn for silage was harvested. Tillage operations had continued, especially on fields where a warm-season forage was chopped and harvested for silage purposes. Additional precipitation was needed to boost the emergence and early growth of recently planted cover crops, including acres of winter wheat grown for forage, grain or dual-purpose use. All dryland wheat suffered from lack of rainfall; only irrigated wheat progressed. Cotton was limited this year due to weather conditions during planting. Pasture and rangeland were reported as fair to very poor; cattle were being supplemented.



Topsoil and subsoil were reported adequate to short in most counties, with pasture and rangelands reporting fair to poor within the region. Heavy rainfall occurred in some areas over the past weeks, with temperatures dropping below freezing. Some counties received frost, which sent summer grasses into dormancy. Winter wheat was starting to emerge across the region. Winter wheat, ryegrass, oats, triticale and rye were almost planted in some counties. Some producers began to feed hay. Summer crops were harvested with very little cotton left to be picked. Cool-season crops looked good with the additional moisture. The freeze slowed down the nuisance flies and other ectoparasites. Livestock were in good condition.



A strong cold front moved through the area early in the week, bringing the first freeze of the season. Daytime temperatures averaged 40 degrees, with overnights at about 26 degrees. There were a few stray showers with trace amounts of rainfall. Icy conditions were prevalent across much of the area after rains Sunday night. The cold snap broke later in the week, and temperatures returned to the mid-60s and low-70s. The drop in temperature killed the cotton and allowed growers to stop spraying. Growers were able to get back into the field and continued cotton harvest. Most growers were approximately 90-95% finished, with a handful just beginning. Cotton producers were shredding and/or plowing under unproductive plants due to past growing conditions. Conditions for winter wheat improved. Wheat planting continued, and emergence was increasing after recent rain. Many pasture weeds froze, but the rains have brought on some winter weeds and a little grass. The drought affected both livestock and pastures. Overall, livestock were in fair condition. Some producers took close to 90% of their herds to the sale because there was not enough forage, and they couldn’t afford to continue supplementation.



The district was swept with frigid mornings and the first form of fall on Nov. 1. Rainfall averaged 0.66 inches, just enough to keep the moisture in the ground. Increased preparation of small-grain fields continued, and the emergence of the already planted crop took off with the recent rainfall. Some cotton was being harvested and sprayed with defoliant and boll openers. Late-planted sorghum crops were negatively affected by the early freeze. Winter wheat planting continued, and the wheat growing was looking strong. Rangeland and pastures were in mostly poor to fair condition due to the ongoing drought. Warm-season grass and forage growth was terminated due to the freeze. Producers continued supplemental feeding their livestock, and cattle prices remained high.



Small amounts of rain were found across the district, and a frost swept across some areas last week but not significant enough for damage. Some ryegrass that was planted was lost due to the short supply of water. Ratoon crop rise was not turning out well. The hot summer weather and dryness reduced yields, and some farmers abandoned their crops. Rangeland and pasture ratings varied from excellent to very poor.  



Some areas of the district received decent rains during the past week, which significantly improved soil moisture. Temperatures were cooler than usual, with a light freeze occurring on Wednesday night. Small grains were looking good and continued to grow, even in the colder temperatures. Wheat planting was approaching, and cool season vegetation was expected to benefit from the improved moisture conditions. Some pastures were affected by the light freeze, but areas that didn’t frost took advantage of the warmer growing conditions. Livestock conditions remained good, and livestock markets were favorable during the week. Cattle selling decreased after the rain, possibly due to the improved conditions for grazing. Deer populations were reported as vital, and hunting season was beginning. Supplemental feeding of livestock continued.



Across the district, conditions cooled, and a light frost swept across. Small grains were planted. Almost all strawberries were produced and doing well. The grass was trying to grow with the recent rain. Citrus producers continued their harvest for early varieties while others were watering in the hope of increasing yields for some late-season varieties. Spinach was being planted and harvested. Cattle producers continued to use available grasses and continued supplementing their herds as needed. Deer breeders were supplementing. Local markets were running average volumes and reporting strong prices for all classes of beef cattle.





The Rosebud News

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