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Saskatchewan Small Flock Poultry Surveillance Program

What is the Small Flock Poultry Surveillance Program?

The Ministry of Agriculture provides free post-mortem examination of small flock domestic poultry to veterinarians, producers and owners in Saskatchewan through Prairie Diagnostic Services (PDS) in Saskatoon. The program covers the cost of necropsy, histopathology and any other testing deemed appropriate by the PDS pathologist on a case-by-case basis.

Who is Eligible for Testing?

Small flock and backyard poultry producers (non-quota domestic poultry) can submit dead birds directly to PDS, or veterinarians can submit on behalf of small flock clients, anywhere in Saskatchewan. Commercial poultry facilities, in addition to wild, or exotic pet birds (such as songbirds, parrots, canaries, etc.) do not qualify under this program. Since mortality can be high in young flocks, only submit chicks or poults less than two weeks of age if losses are greater than five per cent.

Why Submit Deceased Poultry for Necropsy?

Submitting deceased poultry for examination is a useful tool to diagnose diseases of concern, rule out other diagnoses and guide treatment or preventative measures for surviving poultry. Postmortem examinations are also an important step in identifying reportable/notifiable diseases. For example, the threat of Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza (HPAI) is significant in Saskatchewan. This disease causes sudden death in wild and domestic birds and is a serious threat to poultry producers and industry. Additionally, the disease can lead to public health and trade implications. While transmission to humans is considered rare, individuals working closely with poultry are at increased risk of contracting avian influenza.

More information on Avian Influenza can be found on our Avian Influenza in Poultry webpage.

Small flock producers are at increased risk of HPAI. This is because poultry with access to the outdoors can have direct contact with wild birds or contaminated environments. By submitting dead poultry through this program, you can help contribute to finding diseases of concern in our poultry populations as quickly as possible so that action to mitigate disease spread can be taken right away.

If you or your veterinarian are suspicious of HPAI, immediately contact the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) through your local district office prior to any laboratory submissions.

What Can be Submitted?

Submit whole dead birds. Up to a maximum of three birds over two weeks of age may be submitted per case. In birds under two weeks of age, a maximum of five birds may be submitted if losses are greater than five per cent. Birds can be stored no more than three days in a refrigerator before submission for testing. If submission is delayed for more than three days, birds should be stored frozen (although fresh sampling is preferred). Birds that are severely decomposed will not be accepted or useful for testing.

How are Birds Submitted to PDS?

Dead birds can be delivered directly to PDS. Direct delivery to PDS is the preferred method for submission.

University of Saskatchewan
52 Campus Drive
Saskatoon, Sask. S7N 5B4
Hours of Operation: Monday to Friday 8 a.m. – 5 p.m.
Phone: 306-966-7316

Phone ahead and let staff know your arrival time as well as the number of birds you are bringing for testing. Do not drop birds off on Thursdays or Fridays unless you have made prior arrangements so that PDS can accommodate the request based on storage and staffing availability. Deterioration of tissue over the weekend can affect test results. After-hours services can be arranged at 306-291-9281 for an additional fee at the responsibility of the producer.

The PDS submission form is available online. Please include the submission form with your birds and confirm all information is correct. If available, please include your Provincial Premises Identification (PID) number on the submission form.

Samples can be shipped to PDS if direct delivery is not possible. All shipping costs are the responsibility of the submitter. Double or triple-bag the bird(s) and tie it tightly. Use an absorbent material (e.g., newspaper) between bags to absorb any fluids that may leak out. If the sample is sent by courier, you must double – or triple-bag the specimen and put it into a solid-sided, sturdy, leak-proof container, such as a Styrofoam cooler. Ice packs should be included to keep the bird(s) cool/fresh. Only send fresh dead birds (not previously stored). Seal the container so there is no risk that it will leak or break open during transit. These containers will not be returned. Make sure the container is properly labelled and the submission form is included. Enclose the submission form in a water-tight plastic bag and place it on top of the bagged samples in the container or place it in an envelope and tape it to the outside of the container. Ensure birds do not arrive at PDS on Thursdays, Fridays, weekends, or statutory holidays to avoid sample deterioration.

Who Has Access to the Results?

Results will be shared with submitters by PDS. If a veterinarian submits on behalf of a producer, results will be reported back to the veterinarian; it is the veterinarian’s responsibility to share the findings with their client. Any non-negative results for provincially notifiable/reportable diseases will be shared with submitters by the Ministry of Agriculture.

Any suspect federally reportable/notifiable diseases will be reported to the CFIA as required by The Health of Animals Act.

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