Economic Benefits of Biosecurity in Poultry Farming

By DuPont Animal Health Solutions - It is a hard fact of the poultry livestock industry that disease within the flocks is a costly business. In fact, it is well accepted that disease accounts for at least 10% of total production costs and the overall costs of outbreaks of specific diseases in poultry make devastating reading. For example, an outbreak of Avian Influenza (AI) in Italy in May 2000 cost at least 200 million Euros and caused the death of over 14 million birds. Another example is if exotic Newcastle Disease became established in America, it could cost the poultry industry over $230 million a year and result in increased costs of eggs and poultry to consumers.
calendar icon 1 July 2003
clock icon 6 minute read

The Economic Challenge

Often the most difficult aspect of dealing with disease in any livestock is recognising that the clinical or apparent disease is only the tip of the iceberg. The vast majority of the cost of disease is actually due to the hidden cost of subclinical disease which has infected the stock but for which there are no apparent disease symptoms to be seen. Studies into the economic impact of subclinical Gumboro (IBD) infection have shown that the income per 1000 birds with evidence of chronic Gumboro infection is 14% less as compared to the income generated by unaffected flocks. Similarly, data from the overall cost of an outbreak of Mycoplasma Gallisepticum in broiler breeders in the UK show a total cost of 73,098 Euros ($69,750) which translates into a 2.04 Euros ($1.95) loss per bird.

The great challenge therefore for the poultry industry is how to overcome the direct and indirect threat of disease. Basically, poultry farmers have the choice of producing more birds at the same cost or producing the same amount of birds but at less cost. The consequences of the two approaches are very different. Producing more at the same cost overloads the market which causes prices and margins to fall, however, producing the same number of birds at reduced cost maintains prices whilst generating more profit. This latter choice appears to be the healthiest financial approach.

Biosecurity - the key to successful disease control

The key to producing the same number of birds at reduced cost is increased efficiency and one of the most significant limiting factors to efficiency and good performance is disease. Hence if disease is prevented or limited, efficiency will automatically rise. The most effective form of protection against disease, especially for livestock farmed under modern production techniques is Biosecurity i.e. excluding disease from the farming environment, and this holds the key to successful and profitable farming. Targeted and individually relevant biosecurity actions taken at a practical farm level have the potential to provide real benefits in disease control which will bring direct returns to individual producers.

Intensively farmed livestock is under constant challenge from disease. This disease may come from a number of sources e.g. viruses, bacteria or fungi, but however it originates it spreads through recognised vectors of infection. These include the livestock themselves, the people who handle them, contaminated sources of food and water, the housing and equipment in which the animals are kept, even the air itself. The critical key to successful disease control is to break this cycle of infection and transmission.

Elements of disease control

Medication and vaccination have traditionally played a major role in treating diseases but it is now widely accepted that they cannot, in isolation, prevent losses due to disease. Modern farming methods demand an all-encompassing holistic approach. Unless the background challenge from disease organisms can be controlled, and good management practices strictly followed, medication and vaccination alone are not capable of adequately protecting stock. Livestock must be given an environment in which disease and infection is controlled to the point where vaccination and medication can achieve beneficial effects. Biosecurity is a key element in this triangle of disease control methods.

Each side of the triangle is essential in protecting the health of the livestock, but each is inter-dependent with the other two sides. It is easy to see how poor disinfection standards - unfortunately the normal condition on too many farms - can undermine vaccination and medication programmes or how excessive disease challenge resulting from poor biosecurity inevitably overwhelms good management. Whatever the "missing piece" failure of one element will overwhelm the others and losses of production and profits are the result.

The Biosecurity Assurance System (BAS)

Quality Assurance Schemes are becoming ever more important around the world for the production of safe meat. Governments are adopting an approach to food safety based on Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points (HACCP). Antec International's Biosecurity Assurance System (BAS) is not only entirely consistent with these principles but was developed significantly in advance of formal legislation.

To show the practical benefit of BAS, a set of key studies was undertaken from 1996-98 investigating the impact of Antec's BAS on 30,00O Italian broiler breeders from a total flock of 100,000. The estimated disease cost impacting on business was 5% of total production costs with the main diseases of Gumboro, E.coli, mycoplasma and respiratory disease present in the flock.

The Antec Biosecurity Assurance System implemented used the following Antec products as part of the protocol: the sanitiser HD3 and the disinfectants Farm Fluid S and Virkon S.

The results of the trials showed a huge beneficial impact of BAS on business. Even taking into account the extra costs spent on BAS, the significant reduction in veterinary costs (an almost 50% reduction in overall veterinary bills was seen) together with large increases in egg production and feed efficiency as a result of BAS resulted in an excellent cost/benefit ratio of 1:49. Hence correct biosecurity is an input/output, cost-effective subject.

Cost/Benefit Appraisal

Benefits = 2.81 Euros ($2.52) per breeder
Cost = 0.057 Euros ($0.052) per breeder
Cost/benefit = 1:49

Economic benefits of biosecurity

The economics of biosecurity make perfect sense. All economic models suggest that prevention of disease is always less expensive than treatment and as has been shown by the results of the set of Italian studies, the cost of implementing a biosecurity system are small when compared to the financial profit that can be made on production. Good biosecurity if therefore the vital ingredient in the best possible control of disease.

Antec International also understands that in order for biosecurity programmes to produce the best results they must be user-friendly for farmers by being practical, flexible, cost-effective and follow common sense protocols. If a programme provides all these aspects maximum input can be achieved which will result in maximum return i.e. the key end result of a co-ordinated biosecurity programme is an increase in profits.

Good biosecurity has been shown to reduce disease costs and increase profits and is essential for the poultry livestock industry to thrive. The best biosecurity is delivered by biosecurity experts Antec International through BAS, which provides the farmer with the best protection against both clinical and subclinical disease in their livestock.

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