Renovations at the Minnesota Poultry Testing Lab in Willmar will provide farmers, veterinarians and the poultry industry with the latest in diagnostics and service.
The $8.5 million expansion and remodeling project was approved by the Minnesota Legislature following the state’s 2015 highly pathogenic avian influenza outbreak. The project added 8,235 square feet of laboratory, office and meeting space to the existing 3,665 square feet. The laboratory now can conduct PCR (polymerase chain reaction) tests for avian influenza virus, do necropsies and provide improved facilities for bacteriology and serology testing.
The MPTL is a partnership between the University of Minnesota Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory and the Minnesota Board of Animal Health. The MPTL tests samples from poultry for the National Poultry Improvement Plan along with conducting other diagnostic and surveillance tests.
“This is a great facility for the Upper Midwest, and the Minnesota poultry industry will benefit,” says Dale Lauer, MPTL supervisor.
Given the proximity to poultry farmers, the Willmar lab will offer quick turnaround times on tests. Before, samples had to be driven or shipped to the U-M lab in St. Paul.
The MPTL, at 622 Business Highway 71, was closed Aug. 22-23 as staff prepared to make the move. Staff were to begin accepting samples Aug. 24, though no tests will be run yet. Full operations are expected to resume Monday, Aug. 29.
Three technicians were hired and received extensive training at the St. Paul lab to conduct the PCR testing now offered at MPTL, Lauer says. PCR testing helps identify types of viruses, such as the H5N2 that steamrolled through the state’s poultry industry last year. Interviews for a new poultry diagnostician were taking place last week, and Lauer says he hopes to have the new diagnostician onboard in October.
“We’ve never had the capability before in Willmar to do necropsies,” he adds.
The MPTL originally opened in Willmar in the mid-1960s in an old Pfizer lab building, Lauer says. It moved to its current location in 1997 and underwent renovation a decade later.
Staff members are planning to host an open house at the renovated lab on Sept. 22.
“This was quite a project and expansion for us,” Lauer says. “We didn’t acquire land and expanded where we are located. I think the public will be impressed.”