Turkey farms begin to slowly recover as bird flu quarantines are lifted

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After a devastating summer, Minnesota's turkey and chicken farmers are slowly starting to recover from the avian flu outbreak that wiped out millions of birds.

After months of being locked down to prevent the spread of the H5N2 virus, quarantines are gradually being lifted to allow farmers to begin restocking the birds they lost.

MPR reports that the quarantine was lifted this week on Kandiyohi County, the state's biggest turkey producing county and the one hardest hit by the outbreak, with 40 farms infected out of a total 108 state-wide.

Quarantines have now been lifted in 18 of 23 affected counties, with a third of the affected farms now in the process of restocking their barns.

The Star Tribune reports that 37 farms have been restocking with healthy birds; Stearns County is leading the way with eight farms already restocked, with seven in Kandiyohi and six in Meeker.

"It’s encouraging to have farms that have already restocked," Steve Olson, executive director of the Minnesota Turkey Growers Association, told the newspaper. "There is a sense that growers are happy to be back in business."

Olson told the West Central Tribune that state money has been made available to farmers to help them make biosecurity repairs to barns and to get their farms back in operation.

He said that while there is a"tight supply" of replacement turkeys in the state, he expects farms will be bringing int birds from other states, and predicts Minnesota's turkey population will have recovered from the nine million birds lost by the end of the year.

While the warm weather has meant there have been no new infections of the virus since June 5, state officials have warned they expect it to return this fall, but are hopeful that security measures will be much improved compared to how they were this past spring.

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