Outdoor Access of Organic Turkeys Can Pose Disease Risks

FINLAND - In the production of organic turkeys, the greatest biosecurity challenges and the highest disease risks are connected with outdoor access.
calendar icon 22 December 2014
clock icon 3 minute read

Outdoor access exposes turkeys to diseases transmitted by wild birds and rodents as well as soil-borne bacteria, which rarely cause problems in conventional poultry production.

”Turkeys on pasture come into direct contact with pathogens transmitted by wild birds and rodents as well as soil-borne bacteria,” said Kitty Schulman, who works as a researcher in the Risk Assessment Research Unit at the Finnish Food Safety Authority, Evira.

“An example of these is the bacterium that causes swine erysipelas to which turkeys are particularly sensitive.

“Wild birds can also transmit Campylobacter, avian influenza and Newcastle disease to turkeys.”

Organic turkeys must have outdoor access, at least from May to October unless prevented by the weather or disease situation.

Increased exercise, improved possibilities for species-typical behaviour as well as natural light increase the wellbeing of turkeys.

However, outdoor access can also pose risks. In addition to diseases, predators, temperature variations and lack of weather shelter may weaken the health of the turkeys.

Investing in Biosecurity Pays Off

Disease prevention is the foundation of productive animal rearing. Farm-level biosecurity lays the cornerstone for biosecurity in the whole production chain as both animals and consumers are protected at the same time.

Biosecurity is particularly important in poultry production, as the production chain consists of several links and any disturbances can easily affect the whole chain.

Poultry diseases can travel over long distances with, for example, migrating birds and many poultry diseases can also be transmitted to humans.

”Although outdoor access can make biosecurity more challenging in organic turkey production, the same rules apply as in conventional poultry farming,” said Ms Schulman.

“Biosecurity barriers should be maintained both on pasture and indoors. Keepers should avoid contact with other poultry farms as well as pet birds and wild birds, and vaccination against erysipelas is recommended.”

Evira and Agrifood Research Finland MTT have published a study that aimed at identifying the animal disease risks associated with organic turkey farming, and biosecurity measures designed to prevent these diseases.

Further Reading

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