WASHINGTON – Researchers plan to use a $100,000 grant to investigate an animal health condition that causes lameness in turkeys and has been reported in every turkey-producing state in the US. According to the Foundation for Food and Agriculture Research (FFAR), turkey arthritis reovirus (TARV) reportedly infects about 70 percent of turkey flocks in the US and is the source for significant financial losses among producers.

To address the increasing threat posed by the sickness and look into tracking how TARV spreads among flocks, FFAR, the Minnesota Turkey Research and Promotion Council and the Univ. of Minnesota combined resources and awarded a $100,000 Rapid Outcomes from Agriculture Research grant to the Univ. of Minnesota. Researchers’ goals also include determining the ideal time to administer preventative vaccines.

The virus was identified in the US in the 1980s on a limited scale and emerged again in 2011, which is when a vaccine was developed but later became ineffective in treating turkeys for lameness, swelling in joints and excessive fluids in the animals’ hocks. 

University researchers are now studying five groups of TARV-infected turkeys at different ages to ascertain when the turkeys are susceptible to the virus, how it spreads and whether age is a factor in the infection process. According to FFAR, the findings of the research will clarify vaccination strategies as well as how pens should be arranged or cleaned to prevent the spread of TARV.

“Turkey welfare and producers’ bottom lines are negatively affected by TARV,” said Sally Rockey, FFAR’s executive director. “This research will inform the next generation of TARV mitigation techniques, improve animal welfare and protect a Thanksgiving staple.”