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Science in action to improve the sustainability of agriculture, natural resources, and food systems
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Birds and Biosecurity: contact rates and parasite exchange between livestock and songbirds

Livestock have access to the outdoor environment, which integrates farm animals with soil, vegetation and wildlife that are components of the farm ecosystem. For example, pasture provides cycling of renewable, organic food inputs for livestock and nutrients from manure. These ecosystem services are vital to sustainable organic animal production. However, livestock in the environment also encounter parasites and pathogens found in soil (e.g. Coccidia) and wildlife (e.g. Influenza virus) that affect animal health and potentially contaminate the human food supply (e.g. Campylobacter). Antibiotics and parasiticides that are available for disease control in conventional animal agriculture are tightly restricted in organic production, which puts a premium on preventative measures to lower risks of infection. There have been few comprehensive, systems-level studies of the infectious organisms that livestock encounter in organic production. The lack of tools for disease management impedes the transition to organic animal production. Working on diverse mixed vegetable farms, a subset of which also integrate livestock into their farming systems, we have conducted surveys of wild bird diversity and density. In addition, fecal and blood samples have been collected from poultry and captured birds to determine the frequency of livestock pathogens in the wild bird community. We have found that wild birds have varying levels of contact with livestock, dependent on wild bird species. In addition, we have detected parasites in both poultry and wild birds that indicate the two groups of birds do exchange infectious organisms. These data have been instrumental in grant proposals to acquire funds for further exploration of the impacts of wild birds on infectious disease in animal agriculture.

Grant Information

  • Project ID: 151
  • Project Status: Complete

2014

  • Principal Investigator(s): Owen, J.
  • Investigator(s): Schwabl, H., Shah, D.
  • Grant Amount: $10000

2016

  • Principal Investigator(s): Owen, J.
  • Investigator(s): Schwabl, H., Shah, D.
  • Grant Amount: $3000
  • 2016 Progress Report

Publications

An informative web site is being developed to communicate results to farmers and researchers. The design for the site is completed and we are beginning to develop and insert content based on research results.

Additional Funds Leveraged

2017 USDA-ORG (FUNDED $458,145) AN ECOLOGICAL APPROACH TO DISEASE RISK MANAGEMENT ON ORGANIC POULTRY FARMS
2016 USDA-OREI (FUNDED $1,625,840) AVIAN BIODIVERSITY: IMPACTS, RISKS AND DESCRIPTIVE SURVEY (A-BIRDS)

Impacts

• Short-Term: Farmers have been made aware of the risks that wild birds pose to livestock health. In addition, farmers have been provided with detailed information about the wild bird communities on their respective farms. These data have been used to obtain additional, extramural funding from the USDA-OREA program ($1,625,840) and for a pending proposal to the USDA-ORG program ($110,115).
• Intermediate-Term: As parasite and pathogen analyses are completed, farmers will be able to assess infection risks posed to livestock. This information will be essential for farmer’s decisions about landscape management and implementation of biosecurity measures (e.g. bird exclusion).
• Long-Term: Enhanced biosecurity measures will be developed that provide targeted protection of livestock from parasites and pathogens carried by wild bird species that are commonly interacting with livestock.