The California Animal Health and Food Safety Laboratory System (CAHFS) is an animal diagnostic laboratory network that operates in partnership with the California Department of Food and Agriculture and UC Davis. The lab has four locations in California: Davis, San Bernardino, Tulare, and Turlock. CAHFS (pronounced “calves”) monitors the health of California’s livestock and poultry populations by performing routine tests for animal diseases, including animal diseases that affect people. Their services and reliable diagnoses are critical for keeping our chickens, ducks, and turkeys healthy and for protecting our food supply.

The laboratories provide rapid testing for flocks with the widespread illness that may signal the first warning for disease outbreaks. If the laboratory finds a sudden increase in a type of poultry disease, CAHFS will alert the California Department of Agriculture (CDFA) and the veterinary community. In the event that they think the cause could be a Foreign Animal Disease (FAD, or a disease not thought to already exist in California or maybe even the United States), they are quick to pack up the sample and ship it to the National Veterinary Service Laboratories (NVSL) in Iowa for confirmation. CAFHS is instrumental in supporting the work of federal, state, and private veterinarians in determining what is causing sickness so that the right steps can be taken to stop the spread of disease as quickly as possible. CAHFS also supports CDFA’s new program called the California Avian Health Education Network (CAHEN) to ensure just that! Check out some information about CAHEN HERE

If one of your own birds is ill, your veterinarian may need to submit a sample (blood, feces, throat swab) for a proper diagnosis. CAFHS works with your veterinarian and offers a wide range of tests to diagnose the cause, which could be anything from parasites to, bacterial infections to contagious viral diseases. They can even test your feed for toxins or impurities. If you discover that one of your birds has died, CAHFS offers a comprehensive, very low-cost postmortem service to determine the cause of death.  Once the test results return, your veterinarian will work with you to determine the best course of therapy or management changes for your flock. If you aren’t sure how to tell whether your bird is sick, read our article about the early detection of disease and the one about contagious diseases. 

If many of birds are sick or dying and you think you might have a serious illness spreading through the flock, call the CDFA Sick Bird Hotline 1-866-922-2473 for help.