New training helps veterinarians treat backyard flocks

LEXINGTON, Ky. — Even before the COVID-19 pandemic began, Americans were showing an increased interest in backyard poultry flocks. Once the pandemic took hold, that interest began to grow even more, as people pursued hobbies at home.

University of Kentucky extension poultry specialists Tony Pescatore and Jacquie Jacob saw growth in backyard flock numbers and were concerned the influx of birds would overwhelm veterinarians. Specialists for the UK College of Agriculture, Food and Environment worked with other poultry experts from Utah State University and Michigan State University to secure a grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Institute for Agriculture to create a poultry training program for veterinarians.

The $230,000 grant will fund a three-year program providing online continuing education for veterinarians and create an online network where veterinarians can share knowledge and experience.

“What we were seeing is that not a lot of veterinarians will see backyard flocks,” Pescatore said. “We want to help them become more comfortable treating poultry, because the birds are not going away.”

The training is also a way for veterinarians to increase their clientele and join a network that will provide another line of defense against disease.

“Even for veterinarians who do not see a lot of poultry in their practices, many of their large animal and pet clientele may become part of the poultry-owning wave,” said David Frame, extension poultry specialist for Utah State University. “The objective of the course is to cover the basic background information that a practitioner may need in order to adequately service current clients owning poultry as well as to attract additional poultry-owning folks in need of veterinary services.”

Participants will receive continuing education credits from the American Association of Avian Pathologists. UK specialists have hosted poultry-related, continuing education opportunities for veterinarians in the past, but they were not always easy for veterinarians to attend.

“It’s not always financially feasible for veterinarians to be away from their practice to attend a full-day training,” Pescatore said. “With this being fully online, they will be able to attend when it is convenient and at their own pace. We’re anticipating much broader appeal and ease of completion.”

This material is based upon work that is supported by the National Institute of Food and Agriculture, U.S. Department of Agriculture, under award number 2020-70024-33096.

UK College of Agriculture, Food and Environment, through its land-grant mission, reaches across the commonwealth with teaching, research and extensionto enhance the lives of Kentuckians. 

–Aimee Nielson
UK College of Agriculture, Food and Environment