Prevent and Prepare For Barn Fires

Although you cannot completely eliminate the risk that there could be a fire in your barn, there are some steps you can take to reduce the risk and be more prepared. ( PORK )

Have you ever considered what you would do if you had a barn fire? How would you protect your animals and all the other assets you have in your barn? What could you have done to prevent it? The thought of a fire is very scary. Although you cannot completely eliminate the risk that there could be a fire in your barn, there are some steps you can take to reduce the risk and be more prepared.

Tips for reducing the risk of a barn fire

Contact your local fire department to have them do a “checkup” of your barn and offer more recommendations for your individual situation. The University of Kentucky’s “Preventing Barn Fire: Tips for Horse Owners” recommends the following steps in reducing your chances of having a barn fire.

  • No smoking! Bedding and hay can easily be ignited by a person smoking in or around the barn. Enforce a strict no smoking policy in your barn. Post signs inside and outside your barn.
  • Place a fire extinguisher next to each exit, utility box and at roughly 30-40-foot intervals in your barn. Inspect and recharge each extinguisher every year, and use a ABC (general purpose) extinguisher.
  • Clean off cobwebs and pick up loose bailer twine. By making sure your barn is clutter-free, you are helping eliminate ways for fire to spread.
  • Electrical devices need to be professionally installed and encased in conduit. Pay attention during winter months to water tank heaters and heated buckets—they continue to generate heat even if there is no water present, which can cause the plastic to melt and a fire to ignite bedding and hay. If you are using electrical cords, make sure that they are professional grade, inspected often and are not overloaded. Keep lights caged and only use lights that are designed for barn use.
  • If possible, keep hay and bedding stored away from a barn housing animals. If you only have one barn, like many of us, make sure hay has properly cured before storing it in the barn. Check the internal temperature of curing hay by poking a thermometer into the middle of the bale. If the temperature reaches 150 degrees, the hay should be monitored. If it reaches 175 degrees, contact the fire department.
  • Keep tractors, fuel, other petroleum products and machinery away from the barn. Clear any grass, hay, leaves or other combustible materials from equipment before storage.

Tips for being prepared in case there is a barn fire

Mentally prepare yourself so that you can act calmly and safely in the case of a fire. Remember that human safety is the top priority—ensure your own safety and the safety of others before taking care of animals. The University of Kentucky’s “Preventing Barn Fire: Tips for Horse Owners” recommends the following steps for preparing yourself and being ready if a fire does occur in your barn.

  • Identify and designate a safe place for your animals to go if you can get them out of the barn safely. This location should be away from the fire and allows fire crews enough room to do their jobs.
  • Handling equipment such as halters, leads, etc. should be quickly accessible. Consider the materials these items are made of. Remember that plastic and nylon will melt in heat.
  • Talk about the plan with members of your family and any employees you might have so they can also be prepared in an emergency.
  • Mark gates, pens or stalls with reflective tape or glow-in-the dark paint. This will make it easier to see where you are going in the dark.
  • If you are removing animals, start closest to the exit first and handle animals one at a time or by groups if they are herd animals. Always maintain control of the animals to help reduce their stress, which can prevent other injury risks.

If there is a fire, call 911 and get people out of the barn. Only get animals out if you can do so without risking human safety. Follow the directions from the fire department or 911 dispatcher.

No one ever wants to think about the risk of a fire, but it is best to be fully prepared so that you can react fast and appropriately.

Tips to Keeping Livestock Healthy During Winter Months

Most animals need some shelter during the winter months, however their natural winter coats allow them to endure cold temperatures. ( Drovers )

Winter has arrived in full force in Michigan. Cold temperatures can cause some challenges in our barns, but utilizing some easy techniques on your farm will help you manage your herd successfully during the winter months.


Ensuring your herd has access to fresh, clean water is essential to their health. In the winter, battling frozen water buckets and tanks can be a challenge. By utilizing tank heaters, heated buckets or automatic waterers, water is kept ice-free and at a temperature the animal is comfortable drinking.

Products that utilize electricity, such as tank heaters and heated buckets, should be checked with a voltmeter to ensure there is no current running through the water. Any electrical current will deter animals from drinking from the water tank or bucket. By inserting one end of the voltmeter in the water tank and the other into the ground, you will get a reading that will indicate if there is a problem. Make sure to check this often.

The University of Wisconsin Extension has published a water consumption chart that outlines the amounts of water certain species will consume per day. Ensuring that your animal is consuming enough water each day is critical to their overall health and well-being.

Amount of water livestock will consumer per day
Species Water needs, gallons per day
Cattle 7-12
Goats 1-4
Hogs 6-8
Horses 8-12
Llamas 2-5
Poultry Up to 1
Rabbits Up to 1
Sheep 1-4


Most animals need some shelter during the winter months, however their natural winter coats allow them to endure cold temperatures. Providing shelter or wind breaks that can be easily accessed by animals is key. Humans oftentimes are prone to making the winter environment for their animals too warm, which is unhealthy for animals.

Michigan State University Extension recommends the following factors to consider when evaluating the housing of your animals:

  • Air quality. Is there adequate ventilation to help dispel respiration gasses and manure odor? Depending on the type of barn you have, there are various ways the barn can be ventilated. Ridge vents are more prevalent in newer barns and are based on the premise that heat rises. Older barns may require opening doors or windows to allow for air circulation. Poorly ventilated spaces can cause irritation in the animals’ lungs and lead to respiratory infections such as pneumonia. If you notice condensation on walls or ceilings, that is a good indication your air isn’t ventilating enough for the number of animals occupying the space. You will need to adjust accordingly.
  • Dry bedding areas. Dry bedding provides insulation from the cold ground and helps decrease the amount of energy animals use to keep them warm. There are many options for bedding you can use; straw, wood shavings and with cattle in particular you can use corn stover or similar crop residues for cows and bulls.


Animals must maintain their energy reserves in order to endure cold temperatures. Before the weather gets cold, asses the body condition of each animal and adjust the nutrition they are receiving to adequately prepare them to thrive in winter conditions. It is critical to continue to assess body condition scores throughout the winter, as it may be necessary to increase the amounts of good quality feed and forages. Supplying adequate amounts of feed is essential in your herds well-being through the winter months.

This article was published by Michigan State University Extension. For more information, visit

USDA Calls for Newcastle Disease Vigilance

John Maday

Clinical signs of virulent Newcastle disease include swelling around the eyes and respiratory distress. ( USDA )

Animal health officials have confirmed two cases of virulent Newcastle disease in backyard poultry flocks in southern California, raising concerns the disease could spread to commercial operations. The disease has not been confirmed in commercial poultry in the United States since 2003, according to the USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS)

While not a food-safety threat, humans can contract a usually mild form of the disease from exposure to infected birds. In unvaccinated poultry flocks though, the virulent disease can cause up to 100% mortality.

The two California cases, one in San Bernardino County and one in Los Angeles County, were confirmed over the past two weeks in backyard poultry flocks. APHIS now urges poultry owners, especially in southern California, to adopt biosecurity measures to prevent spread of the disease. These include:

  • Wash hands and scrub boots before and after entering an area with birds.
  • Clean and disinfect tires and equipment before moving them off the property.
  • Isolate any birds returning from shows for 30 days before placing them with the rest of the flock. Limit visitor contact with their birds, and do not let anyone else who owns birds come in contact with their flock to avoid potentially sharing/spreading germs between flocks.
  • Report sick birds or unusual bird deaths to State/Federal officials, either through their state veterinarian or USDA’s toll-free number at 1-866-536-7593.

Clinical signs of virulent Newcastle disease include:

  • Sudden death and increased death loss in the flock.
  • Sneezing; gasping for air; nasal discharge; coughing.
  • Greenish, watery diarrhea.
  • Decreased activity.
  • Tremors; drooping wings; twisting of the head and neck.
  • Circling; complete stiffness.
  • Swelling around the eyes and neck.

Images of some of these signs are available here.

Additional information on biosecurity for backyard flocks can be found at the USDA’s Biosecurity for Birds website.

Additional cases will be reported on the APHIS website as they are confirmed.


Parasite in your Flock

LANCASTER, Pa. — Do you find yourself throwing away eggs after treating your flock for internal parasites? Although it’s nearly impossible to keep your chickens completely worm-free year-round, proper management can help prevent parasite issues in your flock.

Why should you care about worms in your birds?

Worm, or parasite, infestations can cause poor growth, decreased egg production and in severe cases, death. Internal parasites can also make a flock more susceptible to diseases or make existing diseases worse.[1]

Backyard birds can easily ingest internal parasite eggs while scratching the ground and foraging for bugs, including snails, slugs, grasshoppers, ants and earthworms. Insects can also harbor parasite eggs, which infect your birds when ingested.

If your birds are not behaving normally and seem distant from the rest of the flock, it could be a sign of parasites causing illness. Pay close attention to your birds for additional symptoms of internal parasites:

  • Appetite loss
  • Weight loss
  • Watery droppings
  • Dehydration
  • Hens stop laying
  • Separation from the rest of the flock
  • Balance and coordination loss due to weakness
  • Poor feather quality
  • Dull combs, wattles and eyes

While parasite infections can be serious, being proactive can help prevent parasites from ever becoming an issue. Here are nine ways to help keep your birds happy, healthy and parasite-free:

  1. Avoid overcrowding – Give birds plenty of room to be comfortable. Overcrowding can cause an abundance of germs in a small area.
  2. Clean coops at least once a week – Cleaning and adding fresh bedding prevents infected droppings from accumulating.
  3. Avoid introducing infested chickens to the flock – Purchase your chickens as newborn chicks. If you purchase adult birds, quarantine them for a minimum of two weeks to monitor their health and assess for potential disease and parasite symptoms.[2]
  4. Avoid giving feed or treats on the ground – Ground pecking for feed and treats increases the risk of your flock consuming parasitic bugs and encountering droppings from contaminated birds.
  5. Keep chickens off freshly tilled ground – Chickens love to eat bugs and freshly tilled ground turns up insects possibly hosting parasite eggs. Keeping your flock away from freshly tilled areas can help limit their exposure to an overabundance of tasty bugs.
  6. Keep wild birds away from your flock – Wild birds could be infected with parasites and shed parasite eggs through their droppings.
  7. Use integrated pest management (IPM) practices to control insect populations – IPM practices are an eco-friendly way to eliminate or control factors required for pests to survive.
  8. Test and sanitize drinking water –  One sick bird can infect the rest of the flock simply by contaminating the waterers. Test and sanitize the water, and keep waterers and feeders cleaned to help control or reduce the chance of spreading infection.
  9. Target worms – Use an all-natural supplement to help breakdown the natural defenses of intestinal worms and their eggs. This makes parasites more susceptible to attack by the bird’s immune system, stomach acids and bacteria in the gut.

Naturally preventing diseases before they start is the best strategy to support the immune system of your birds, prevent expensive, time-consuming veterinarian visits and maintain a happy, healthy flock. For more information about poultry health, visit and “like” the Healthy Flock Facebook page.

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Bird Flu

MONTGOMERY, Ala. — Alabama officials have confirmed bird flu in two poultry flocks, just a week after three commercial breeders had to kill their chickens across the state line in Tennessee.

The state veterinarian announced that chickens are under quarantine after testing positive for the disease at a commercial breeding operation in Pickens County near the Mississippi line.

Dr. Tony Frazier’s statement says the disease also was found in a backyard flock in Madison County, near the Tennessee line.

Agriculture officials say this strain of avian flu poses no risk to humans and has not entered the food chain.

The Alabama Poultry and Egg Association says poultry is Alabama’s largest agriculture sector, generating about $15 billion in annual revenues and employing more than 86,000 people.

Copyright: For copyright information, please check with the distributor of this item, Canadian Press.

For more articles concerning bird flu, click here.

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U.S. bird flu cases have local farmers on guard

Delaware poultry farmers are on alert after a recent outbreak of bird flu devastated a Tennessee farm.

More than 73,000 birds on a southern Tennessee farm that supplies chickens for Tyson Foods were killed after federal officials identified a case of deadly bird flu in the flock.

For Delaware poultry farmers, this is a wake up call that the virus could be nearby.

“The Delaware Department of Agriculture has really been preparing for Avian Influenza since the last time we had it back in 2004 and we haven’t stopped preparing because the chicken industry is such a large part of our economic impact in Delaware,” said Stacey Hofmann, a spokeswoman for the department.

Hofmann said the path migratory birds take through Tennessee is not the same as the one birds use in Delaware, but they eventually meet at their Arctic breeding grounds. Once they leave during the fall, that’s when it’s possible the virus might spread down the Mid-Atlantic.

State officials and industry groups say farmers should remember to wear disposable clothing inside chicken houses to prevent the spread of the virus. Hofmann said farmers should also limit the amount of visitors to the chicken houses.

A turkey farm in Wisconsin also reported a less serious case of bird flu, but it didn’t require the culling of an entire flock.

Avian Influenza

You may have noticed that the price of eggs have increased in the past couple of weeks. The main reason is due to a shortage of eggs coming from major egg producer states. The United States is home to roughly 280 million laying hens that produce around 75 billion eggs a year. Iowa is the largest egg producing state with over 58 million hens in production. According to the American Egg Board the 2014 per capita consumption of eggs in the United States has increased to 263 eggs. Of that 60 percent of the eggs produced are used by consumers, 9 percent used in the food service industry leaving 31 percent of the eggs being used in egg products like cake mixes and mayonnaise. The main reason for the increase in egg prices is due to a decline in laying hens that have contracted Avian Influenza.
Avian influenza (AI) is the bird flu. Just like humans there is a flu that affects birds. AI is a virus that naturally occurs in wild birds such as geese, ducks, shorebirds and can spread to domestic poultry like chickens and turkeys. Unlike humans wild birds cannot go to the doctor if they have the flu and from what I have been reading the last human flu shot was only 19 percent effective. AI is primarily spread through direct contact between healthy birds and infected birds. The virus is excreted through the feces of infected birds and is the most common cause of transmission. The issue is that our major egg producing states are on flyways for ducks and geese that migrate during certain times of the year which puts our hens in jeopardy.
The signs of illness of birds infected with AI typically have decreased food consumption, coughing and sneezing along with decreased egg production. However, there is no need to panic if you have a back yard flock. The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) has developed recommendations that may prevent a poultry disease outbreak.
1. Restrict access to your property and your birds.
2. Keep your clothes, shoes, equipment and hands clean.
3. If you have been near other birds or bird owners, clean and disinfect poultry cages and equipment before going home and follow number 2.
4. Don’t borrow tools and poultry supplies from other bird owners.
5. Know the warning signs such as sneezing, coughing, nasal discharge, lack of energy, poor appetite and sudden increase in mortality.
6. Sick or dead domestic birds, including backyard flocks and commercial poultry, should be reported to the Delaware Department of Agriculture’s Poultry and Animal Health Section, (302) 698-4500 or (800) 282-8685.
7. To report groups of dead or sick waterfowl, shorebirds or gulls, contact the Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control’s Wildlife Section-Wildlife Disease Program at (302) 735-3600.
In summary proper biosecurity measures can prevent disease outbreaks. Isolating your birds from wild birds is key in the fight against AI. If you have any questions stop by the New Castle County Cooperative Extension Office located at 461 Wyoming Road in Newark, Delaware, or phone 302-831-2506 for more information. For comments or questions email me at or follow me on twitter @DanSeversonUD.

Avian Influenza

Avian flu no threat to Delaware poultry yet

DOVER — Even though no avian influenza has been reported in Delmarva or even on the East Coast, Delaware is taking no chances.

Since December 2014, the U.S. Department of Agriculture has confirmed several cases of highly pathogenic avian influenza H5 in the Pacific, Central and Mississippi flyways — the paths used by migratory birds. The disease has been found in wild birds, as well as in a few backyard and commercial poultry flocks.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention considers the risk to people to be low and no human cases of these HPAI H5 viruses have been detected in the United States, Canada or internationally.

Bill Satterfield, executive director of the Delmarva Poultry Industry, said in an email last week the Delaware Department of Agriculture, the 1,600 Delmarva families who raise chickens and all the poultry-related industries are concerned about the possibility of avian influenza viruses reaching the peninsula.

“We are not in a panic mode,” he said, “but are working to make sure the virus is kept away from our commercial chickens and to be prepared in case it is discovered.”

Delmarva’s chicken industry is geared toward producing meat, not eggs, he said. Delaware is ranked 10th among the states in the pounds of meat chickens produced in 2013. More than 1.5 billion pounds were produced.

Poultry and related industries contributed $3.2 billion to the Delaware economy in 2011, according to the University of Delaware.

Mr. Satterfield said efforts continue to improve biosecurity, update prevention and response plans and ensure resources are in place to deal with the potentially devastating disease.

“The three diagnostic laboratories for Delmarva are gearing up in case there are suspicious or confirmed cases of avian influenza,” he said.

Planning exercises also are in the works.

On Monday, the Delaware Department of Agriculture announced it is prohibiting waterfowl entries in the poultry competitions at the Delaware State Fair, July 23-Aug. 1 in Harrington, in order to protect against avian influenza.
Ducks and geese won’t be exhibited. Exhibitions of chickens, quail, pheasants, turkeys and other birds will take place, but all birds will be tested for avian influenza by the Department of Agriculture personnel before the fair begins.

“This action is being taken out of an abundance of caution to guard against the spread of avian influenza,” said Delaware state veterinarian Dr. Heather Hirst.

Since many species of wild waterfowl can carry and shed influenza virus in feces without showing any signs of illness, Dr. Hirst said it is important to keep domestic birds separated from wild waterfowl and to keep domestic birds off waterways where wild waterbirds live.

Avian influenza spreads bird-to-bird through saliva, feces and other bodily fluids.

Biosecurity measures recommended by the department include isolating birds from visitors and other birds; keeping shoes, tools, equipment, vehicles and cages clean when entering areas where birds live; avoiding tracking wild waterfowl feces into domestic bird living areas; avoiding sharing equipment and tools with neighbors; watching for warning signs of disease; and reporting sick or dead birds.

Sick or dead domestic birds, including backyard flocks and commercial poultry, should be reported to the Delaware Department of Agriculture’s Poultry and Animal Health Section, (302) 698-4500 or (800) 282-8685.

To report groups of dead or sick waterfowl, shorebirds or gulls, contact the Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control’s Wildlife Section-Wildlife Disease Program at (302) 735-3600.

For more information on avian influenza, visit


Bird Health

From Delmarva’s Morning Ag Clips:

Maryland’s agricultural officials are taking their fight against bird flu to festival grounds across the state.

The state Department of Agriculture announced Monday that any poultry, whether from the state or elsewhere, must be tested for the flu at least 10 days before entry in any Maryland fair or show. The only exception are birds that originate in a National Poultry Improvement Plan clean or monitored flock.

In addition, all waterfowl are banned from entry.

The current strain of H5N2 avian influenza isn’t suspected of posing a threat to humans. The Midwest-centered outbreak has spread to more than 30 million poultry since last December.

It has not been detected in Maryland, Delaware or Virginia