Quails in a farm in Barangay Ulanin Pitak,Jaen, Nueva Ecija. Photo by Armand M. Galang
JAEN, Nueva Ecija – Fears of losing their livelihood gripped quail farmers amid reports on cases of bird flu that caused the depopulation of some 15,000 heads in Barangay Ulaning Pitak here on Saturday.
Barangay chairman Wilfredo, who owns the emptied quail farm, said they noticed the sudden deaths of birds in the middle of last week.
“Sabi ko baka heat stroke lang. E nung nakabukasan ay marami na, libo na,” Hipolito said.
This prompted him to report the incident to the municipal agriculture which took samples for the regional office on Friday. On Saturday, the depopulation was conducted by experts from the agency, he said.
On Monday, March 16, the Department of Agriculture said it had detected a strain of bird flu precisely in the quail farm in Barangay Ulaning Pitak, clarifying though that it had a “very, very slim” chance of being transmitted to humans.
Agriculture Secretary William Dar said the quails were infected with the H5N6 “highly pathogenic” avian influenza. He added that he had banned the sale of quail meat and eggs within the farm’s 1-kilometer radius.
Hipolito, who already spent some P300,000 in in less than four months for the 18,000 heads of quails, wasone of ten residents into the backyard business in his village.
Glenn Lopez, 26, who tends the 10,000-head farm of a close relative in the village, said their birds appear to be healthy to date. He, however, expressed belief that what happened in Hipolito’s farm may also affect theirs.
“Sana po ay huwag namang magkaganun. Malaking problema pag nagkaganun,” he said.
Quail farmers were struck with problems on the sale of eggs, another farmer said.
Early last week, eggs were sold at P1.25 a piece. But it is now down to P.85 per egg after the community quarantine was imposed over the National Capital Region from where their buyers come, according to a woman who is also in the quail business.