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Biosecurity Basics on Poultry Farms

01 May 2014

One of the most crucial aspects of any poultry business is biosecurity - keeping diseases out of the farm - as the consequences of a breakdown can be devastating for the business, reports Jackie Linden. This is especially true if that disease is avian influenza.

Biosecurity is such an important topic that a half-day workshop was devoted to it at the International Production and Processing Expo (IPPE) in Atlanta, US, earlier this year.

Real World Biosecurity Strategies to Minimise Animal Health and Food Safety Risks

As an example of the high standards operated in US poultry companies, the Director of Veterinary Service at Perdue, Dr David Shapiro began his presentation by showing the biosecurity rules imposed by his company.

It was a formidable list but to make it more practical, the focus is on the most important risks, which are seen as live chicken traffic, movement of people, transport of mortalities and poultry density in the area.

A Top 10 List, drawn up by Dr Vaillancourt in 2003, is still valid today to cover the most important biosecurity risks:

  1. Employees attend cock fights
  2. Wild birds in poultry houses
  3. Employees own poultry
  4. Families of employees own poultry
  5. High poultry farm density in the region
  6. Birds of different ages in same house
  7. Rodent infestation
  8. More than one species of bird on farm
  9. Shared bird disposal
  10. Grower visits other poultry farms

Dr Shapiro stressed the need to keep challenging biosecurity protocols, ensuring there are no gaps and particularly, considering the realities of compliance.

"Quantitative data and cost-effectiveness need to form the basis of decisions on biosecurity," he said - as in every other part of the business. 

Implementing Biosecurity Programmes: Challenges

An overview of the history of low-pathogenic avian influenza (LPAI) in Minnesota was the starting point of the presentation by Dr Carl Heeder of Zoetis. In the last 35 years, there have been LPAI outbreaks in this state - well-known for it turkey production - in 11 years, with H7N9 identified as the causative agent in the most recent outbreaks in 2007, 2009 and 2011.

He looked at biosecurity in two parts - theory and practice. The theory covers a set of preventative measure designed to reduce the risk of transmission of infectious diseases, while the reality involves the culture dedicated to reducing disease risks. 

Noting that the LPAI outbreaks in Minnesota were happening almost every year between the mid-1980s and mid-1990s, Dr Heeder said that it was decided in 1995 to bring the turkeys inside, off free-range to reduce the biosecurity risk - and it seems to have worked. 

"A disease outbreak is the result of a biosecurity breach and should come as a reality check," he said.  

Key to success on farms, Dr Heeder said, are to know your system thoroughly, to execute the programme rigorously and and to train the people so that that they know not only what is required of them but also why they need to stick to the rules.

"Leadership is all about getting people to do what you want because they want to," he concluded.

Biosecurity Security with Global Viewpoint

There are four basic concepts of biosecurity, explained Dr Ian Rubinoff of Hy-Line.

These are:

  • conceptual biosecurity, i.e. location and design of the farm
  • structural biosecurity, which includes the elements to indicate a bisoecure location, such as gates, signage, vehicle washes and shower facilities.
  • operational biosecurity - the day-to-day operations and standard operating procedures (SOPs) and
  • cultural biosecurity - which focuses on the education of employees so they understand the procedures and why they need to be followed consistently.

Record-keeping is a vital aspect of biosecurity; records need to become part of the daily routine and accessible - an advantage in favour of electronic systems - and they need to be quite detailed, not just a series of tick-boxes.

Using Salmonella Enteritidis (SE) on a layer unit as an example, Dr Rubinoff said what is needed includes a written SE prevention plan, documentation to ensure that pullet are monitored and compliance documentation - including log-in sheets, inspection reports of boot-dipping stations, rodent/pest control records, and records of disinfectant use, including the name of the product and the concentration used.

In his presentation, Dr Nick Dorko of Aviagen drew on his extensive international experience, outlining some of the trends outside North America, where they differ and why.

H5N1 highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) has had some positive effects on poultry health, he said, citing generally improved biosecurity standards, better cleaning and disinfection practices and a shift from live bird markets to more processed and further-processed poultry meat products.

The three aspects that have made the most difference, in his view are the growing use of 'all-in, all-out' (AIAO) systems (fewer multi-age farms), showering on entry to and exit from the farm and larger farms which can justify dedicated farm vehicles. 

As previous speakers had mentioned, Dr Dorko also stressed the importance of educating staff on why they need to stick to the rules over biosecurity.

Among the practical aspects, he mentioned the design of showers, which must be one-way; hot water and cleansing materials provided make compliance more likely, he said. No items should be brought through the entry without being disinfected, including mobile phones and recording equipment - preferably using a formalin fumigation or UV light cabinet.

At the entrance to each house, there need to be footbaths for cleaning boots and then disinfectant dips or, even better, a change of boots for each visitor. Using different coloured boots in each house helps compliance.

Equipment sharing between poultry houses should be avoided.

Curtains around the vehicle wash will help to contain the disinfectant, and Dr Dorko stressed that the inside of vehicles also need disinfection.

Poultry litter can also be a biosecurity risk, he said. Has it been disinfected before delivery on the farm? And where does it go after use? Reusing litter is more common in broiler production around the world nowadays, he said, as suitable materials have become more expensive.

Rodents and vermin can carry many poultry diseases; electrical barriers are effective if the power supply is reliable, otherwise, bait boxes need to be used and maintained.

The farm water supply needs to be disinfected if the source is open ponds, Dr Dorko recommended, as they tend to attract wildlife, especially ducks, which carry potentially dangerous viruses to domestic poultry, such as avian flu.

Finally, culls and mortalities need to be disposed of safely by incineration or composting.

In his conclusions, Dr Dorko said that the eradication of many poultry diseases is close to impossible, especially where multi-age sites, cock-fighting, wild ducks, backyard farming and live bird markets still exist.

"Biosecurity is key to keeping diseases out of farms under these conditions," he added.

May 2014

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