The new Cooper Farms disinfectant station at the Cooper Farms facility in Paulding. Construction was completed on Feb. 20 of this year. (DHI Media/Jacob Sweet)
The new Cooper Farms disinfectant station at the Cooper Farms facility in Paulding. Construction was completed on Feb. 20 of this year. (DHI Media/Jacob Sweet)
PAULDING — A new building at the intersection of West Caroline Street and Walnut Street in Paulding on the property of the Cooper Grain and Feed Mill is a truck disinfectant station to help prevent the spread of diseases to and from the Cooper Farms facility.

“All of this is because of bio security, which is disease prevention,” said Cassie Jo Arend, Cooper Farms corporate communications manager.

“We try to make sure that all of our animals stay as healthy as they can stay,” she added. “It’s part of why we have them in barns because external factors are the biggest issues when it comes to our animals being unhealthy.”

Bio security is one of the things at the top of the list for the employees of Cooper Farms.

One of the biggest diseases that they worry about is avian influenza, along with many other diseases.

Cooper Farms partakes in daily testing to conform with the National Poultry Improvement Plan to identify avian influenza. According to Cooper Farms, they blood test 100 percent of their flocks.

The avian influenza (H5N2) is a disease caused by infection with avian (bird) influenza type A viruses. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, these viruses occur naturally among wild aquatic birds worldwide and can infect domestic poultry and other bird species.

The CDC also said that domestic birds such as chickens and turkeys, can be infected through direct contact with infected waterfowl, other infected poultry or through contact with surfaces that have been contaminated with the virus.

In June of 2015, it was estimated that 48.1 million birds had died from the H5N2 virus, making it the worst avian flu outbreak in U.S. history.

According to Fortune.com, the cost of dead poultry as of 2015 was $191 million. In Iowa, the cost alone for the total economic damage of the outbreak stands at $957 million.

The Paulding facility hatches around 15 million pullets and they keep about six million of those for themselves.

“We are concerned not only for bio security with our trucks, but all of our facilities are shower in, shower out,” said Breeder and Feed Mill Division Manager Brian Donley. “We worry about bio security of every single thing that we do.”

The Paulding Cooper Grain and Feed Mill facility, along with the Fort Jennings facility, are a part of the live animal division.

“The Paulding facility feeds all of our breeder farms, all of our sows and turkeys and some male hogs, but this facility feeds all the breeder stock animal farms up here and a couple grow-out farms as well, so it’s making feed constantly,” stated Arend.

In Paulding, they are averaging around 2,500 tons of feed shipped out the door a week and grind about 50,000 bushels of corn every week, all of which is locally purchased from local farmers.

With all this feed coming in and out, Cooper Farms is worried about the ingredient haulers that would have hauled something to another mill or another place where they could have had pigs or feathers of some sort that could be contaminated.

“We ask any of our ingredient haulers, that we are paying them to haul for us, to go through the disinfectant station, but we don’t ask the corn farmers,” Donley said. “But we buy other ingredients and if they want to supply us with those ingredients, minus corn, they have to have their trucks disinfected.”

This truck disinfectant station cost the company approximately $170,000 and it was constructed by local contractors.

“We can pay for that multiple times if we prevent one flair up,” said Cooper Farms Grain and Feed Mill Manager Jerry Feeney.

Feeney also schedules his drivers differently based on where they are going. So if Cooper Farms ever did have a disease breakout from a certain truck, then he would make sure that was the last truck of the day. They would then have to go through the wash when they got there and when they leave.

“Just like the ingredient haulers, the first thing we do is go through the wash, but the last thing we do before we leave is go through it with a feed truck, so on the way to the farm, in theory, the only place we could pick up something would be going down the road,” said Director of Facilities and Maintenance Bud Koenig.

The Paulding facility teams with seven sow farms, nine breeder farms, six grow-out farms, five acclamation farms and 21 wean-to-finish farms, which is between 40 and 50 different locations in Paulding, Defiance, Putnam, Williams and Van Wert counties.

“Just as a team member, to go to a farm, I have to have not been around hogs or any kind of poultry for 72 hours,” Arend said. “There is a reason when you drive past any of the farms around here that there are Do Not Enter signs and it’s because of the health of the animals.”