It is easy to forget there are diseases other than avian influenza still destroying hundreds of thousands of birds in a single event. The tiny Baltic state of Estonia (population 1.3 million) and member of the European Union (EU) recently took its biggest hit ever from Newcastle disease. Over 200,000 chickens and more than 1.5 million eggs were destroyed at a layer farm near the capital. Tallinn. It is now surrounded by a 10-km quarantine zone. AS Talleg, the country’s largest poultry producer, said that culling got underway at its Tellivere-Kulli farm in early November 2007 as soon as confirmation of Newcastle disease was received from a United Kingdom (UK) testing laboratory. Wild pigeons are being blamed for transmitting the disease to commercial poultry.
The unit is one of Estonia’s largest egg farms, accounting for more than one-third of the country’s total egg production. Financial losses are estimated at around US$ 2 million. A spokesperson for Estonia’s poultry association hoped that other local producers would make up some of the shortfall but increased imports from neighbouring Latvia look inevitable in the short term.
Tallegg’s CEO, Teet Soorm, told journalists that the company’s poultry were insured and that eggs accounted for only 14% of its turnover.Officials from Estonia’s Food and Veterinary Board said that the unit will be thoroughly cleaned and disinfected but that it would not be possible to resume production until sometime in 2008. Estonia has already started the stipulated vaccination of poultry against the disease. Egg production is reckoned to account for some 2% of Estonia’s agricultural production.