Egg Production Still Low in South Dakota After Bird Flu

October 29, 2015 10:30 AM
Egg Production Still Low in South Dakota After Bird Flu

Egg production in South Dakota continues to suffer as the state's largest producer works to recover from last spring's outbreak of deadly bird flu virus.

Chickens in South Dakota produced 36 million eggs in September, down from 65 million in September 2014, according to data from the U.S. Department of Agriculture. There were about 1.6 million egg-laying birds in the state last month, compared to 2.6 million at the same time last year.

The H5N2 virus wiped out 48 million turkeys and chickens in the U.S., including 1.7 million birds in South Dakota. All nine of the state's affected turkey farms have restocked, but its largest egg producer hasn't.

Flandreau-based Dakota Layers killed off its entire flock of 1.3 million hens after the virus hit in May.

"Our facility has not had anything of this scale we had to deal with," Vice President Jason Ramsdell told The Daily Republic newspaper.

The facility is restocking but it will take time because layer flocks often are reserved almost two years in advance, he said.

A decline in chickens and eggs around the country has pushed up egg prices. Producers nationwide received an average of $2.38 per dozen for table eggs in August, according to USDA data. That compared with 86 cents per dozen at the same time last year and 87 cents per dozen in 2013.

That's good news for producers who have restocked, but it isn't helping Dakota Layers.

"It would have been a big help if we actually had production in place," Ramsdell said. "But having to euthanize all our birds, obviously we don't have any eggs to sell."

The bird flu didn't affect smaller, free-range chicken farms in South Dakota, according to Canistota chicken farmer Tom Neuberger.

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