Staff from the Veterinary and Emergency Programs divisions spent a recent day on a Moore County poultry farm training U.S. Department of Agriculture contractors how to humanely depopulate a poultry flock using foam. The contractors were from disaster response companies in Wisconsin, Mississippi and Louisiana that are under contract with USDA to go into states at times of disaster when the state lacks the manpower to respond to animal disasters. No birds were used in the training and the poultry houses used have been empty for about a year.
Foam is used only in instances where an entire flock needs to be euthanized because of disease or injury. It is not a way to kill animals before slaughter. Six NCDA&CS employees deployed to Alabama after tornadoes struck that state a few years ago and demolished poultry houses. They helped poultry farmers there in cases where injured flocks were stuck inside collapsed houses and needed to be humanely euthanized. Teams help depopulate flocks in North Carolina a few times each year because of disease outbreaks or injuries related to collapsed houses.
No farmer ever wants to be in the situation where he has to depopulate an entire flock, especially because of a disease outbreak. It is an emotional ordeal for everyone involved. Foam is a good option because it is gentle enough to not overly excite the birds and kills them quickly. The foam is also environmentally safe to use and dissipates on its own.
The department has become a national leader in this technique. NCDA&CS staff have taken the equipment and modified several units to improve the design and make them interchangeable. They’ve also literally written a manual on how to do it. The equipment is available for use by other states if needed. Because of the hands-on training and manual, the contractors said they feel confident in their ability to take a crew onto a farm, operate the equipment and handle the situation confidently.