There are currently 328 million egg laying hens producing roughly 99.8 billion eggs the United States. These hens are located on 233,700 farms.
Did you catch that?
Lets do some math. 328 million hens divided by 233,700 farms equals approximately one-thousand, four hundred hens, on average, per farm.
But wait... we have only 120 hens, and most small farms only have a few hens too (I bet you know someone with only 5 hens? We do) That means that the average is way off... the actual size of most of the CAFO units is near 50,000. Can you imagine that? That is a huge liability when it comes to disease.
So what is CDFA (California Department of Food and Agriculture) trying to accomplish with a quarantine? Well, first, they are trying, earnestly and faithfully, to prevent the spread of Newcastle's by stopping all movement of live Chickens in the area. For this, I applaud them. Makes good sense to me - stop movement, stop spread - right?
The problem with all cookie-cutter, big-brother, government solutions is this - they work, yes, but usually only for a very small and specific constituency.
Don't believe me? Call the IRS sometime to ask for help on a specific tax issue.
Stopping movement is also defined by stopping the hatchery from shipping new baby chicks to our Ranch in Moorpark (even though we are outside the official quarantine area). That means that an operation like ours, which doesn't hatch baby chicks, but uses a hatchery from outside the state, cannot replenish their meat birds (called broilers) each month for the harvest 9 weeks later. Forget that Newcastle is confined to egg-laying birds, not broilers.
We still can't get them. Nope! Rules are rules...right?
The large industrial farms are still getting theirs. Just not us. How do I know - well, you haven't seen a shortage of chicken at Vons or Ralphs yet have you? Plus, these mega-farms with lobbyists and cronies can just cross-ship from another production facility and wait out the quarantine. Whereas, a small farm like ours loses our lifeline within 30 days.
The hatcheries are being prevented from shipping to us by CDFA even though we are outside the quarantine area. They are deathly afraid of the government.
So, here we are. It's been nearly 4 months and we are struggling to keep our Chicken operation running. For those of you who have been wondering why you see this...
Thanks for understanding. And please pray for us that we will find our way through this difficult time.
Chief Cattle Wrangler, Piglet Chaser and Chicken Whisperer