Biosecurity Guidelines for Poultry Producers
Note Number: AG1155
Published: June 2006
Updated: June 2008
Effective biosecurity procedures - practical measures to limit the spread of infectious diseases and pests, both within a farm and from one farm to others - are essential to prevent and control important exotic and endemic diseases of poultry.
Biosecurity is good for business
Common infectious diseases of poultry such as coccidiosis, infectious laryngotracheitis and Marek's disease pose constant challenges to Australian poultry producers and can chronically lower flock performance. Better farm biosecurity can improve overall flock health, cut the costs of disease treatment, reduce losses and improve farm profitability.
Biosecurity is also the best form of defence against emergency diseases. The recent outbreaks of Newcastle disease in NSW and Victoria and the recent outbreaks of avian influenza in Europe and Asia focussed attention on the large economic risks associated with outbreaks of these diseases. As part of new arrangements between government and industry for sharing emergency disease response costs, poultry producers are expected to implement on-farm biosecurity programs and follow them on a daily basis to reduce the risk of transmission of disease onto and between poultry farms.
How do diseases of poultry spread?
Disease agents and pests can be introduced to a poultry farm by movement of eggs, birds, people, vehicles and equipment between farms, and by clothing, footwear, aerosols, water, feed, litter, wild birds, biting insects and vermin.
Introduction of stock, litter and feed
Producers are strongly encouraged to seek expert technical advice before purchasing birds. Birds of low or unknown health status can easily bring new diseases into a flock. Replacement stock should be sourced directly from reputable suppliers with flocks of a higher or comparable health status. Flocks of high health status usually purchase certified stock from companies with quality assurance and vaccination programs that are approved by farm management.
Incoming stock should be inspected on arrival and placed in a shed that has been cleaned and disinfected before use. All-in, all-out systems are preferable.
Litter and feed should also be purchased from approved sources implementing quality assurance programs that meet industry standards. Fresh litter should be used for each batch of birds.
Visitors – only visitors essential to the farm's business should be permitted entry. The farm site (the immediate shed area) should have a perimeter fence. All visitors should enter via a single point where they sign a visitors' book and are issued with clean protective boots and clothes for use only on the poultry farm. Clearly demarcated "clean" and "dirty" areas should be established to ensure there is no confusion about where people need to remove their off-farm "dirty" clothes and footwear and put on "clean" farm boots and clothing and wash their hands. Signs, locked doors and locked gates can be used to discourage delivery truck drivers, or other unauthorised visitors, from entering sheds. Visitors likely to have been exposed to poultry or birds within 24 hours should not be permitted to enter sheds unless they shower and change clothes.
Staff - employees should be aware of the risks entailed in off-site contact with other birds. Unless approved by management, staff should have no contact with any other avian species or keep birds of any type at home. Rules for staff entry to sheds should be similar to the rules for visitors, except that staff need not be required to sign the visitor movement record. Staff should not wear "clean" clothing in "dirty" areas. In multi-age systems, staff movements between sheds should be planned and staff should move from younger to older birds through the day, changing protective clothing between sheds/age groups.
Company service personnel - who make multiple farm visits on a single day, should plan visits carefully and move from sites of lower biosecurity risk (ie. from their home, younger birds or a healthy farm/shed) to sites of higher risk. Protective clothing must be worn (including headwear) and changed between each site/shed. Hands should be washed between sites/sheds and after handling sick birds, which where possible, should be visited last.
Pick-up crews – there should be heightened awareness of disease control measures during the pick-up period. Crews should work from the youngest to the oldest birds or all young birds or all old birds on a nightly basis in accordance with the biosecurity procedures of the processing company.
Vehicles– all visitors should park their vehicles outside the farm site. Vehicles that need to enter or closely approach sheds should be cleaned and disinfected. Dead bird pick-up vehicles should not enter farms.
Mains supply or bore water has a relatively low risk of microbiological contamination. If this is not available, river, dam or stream water may be used but should be chlorinated or treated by another water sanitation method. Chlorine added to achieve 2 to 3 ppm at the level of the drinkers, or the installation of a chlorine dioxide sanitation unit is recommended. The efficiency of sanitation systems must be checked regularly.
Wild birds and other animals
Contact between poultry and wild birds (particularly waterfowl, pigeons and psittacines) should be avoided. All housing should be designed and maintained to exclude wild birds and rodents. A rodent and pest control program must be in place. Feed and water distribution systems should be sealed to prevent contamination by wild birds and feed spills cleaned up as they occur. Trees and shrubs should not be planted along side sheds as they attract wild birds and vermin. Non-poultry bird species (eg. ratites, pigeons, aviary birds) and pigs must not be kept on poultry farms.
All transport crates, containers, vaccination/beak trimming implements, tools and shed equipment such as feeders, cages and drinkers should be cleaned and disinfected before use. At batch depletion, the internal surfaces of the vacated building and all equipment (including ducting, drains and fans) should be cleaned thoroughly. Damaged eggs, dead and cull birds, litter and manure should be disposed of promptly by approved methods, which will vary according to environmental compliance requirements.
Aerosol spread and buffer distances
Geographical separation of farms can limit the risk of spread of disease by aerosols but is not a substitute for good "on farm" biosecurity. For instance, a biosecurity buffer will not protect a poorly managed flock that allows free access of wild birds to sheds.
The level of risk posed by a poultry enterprise differs according to its type, size, location and management. It also depends on the diseases present, the level of infection in the flock, the topography of the site and wind direction.
In a relative sense, breeder farms are viewed as being at the greatest economic risk because of the value of the fertile eggs derived from these flocks and the productive life of the flocks (8-12 months). Egg layer farms are viewed as the next most significant economic risk because of the lengthy productive life (12 months), and broiler farms have a lower economic risk because of the short productive life of 6-8 weeks.
Duck and/or waterfowl farms, whether intensive or extensive, require a higher standard of biosecurity than most other forms of poultry production because of the potential interaction with wild birds, and the possibility that these flocks can act as reservoirs of serious poultry viral disease.
Biosecurity buffer distance guidelines are presented in Table 1. These guidelines should not be interpreted too prescriptively as effective biosecurity is achieved through a combination of measures.
Table 1: A Guide on biosecurity buffer distancesa
Fowls/turkeys/other avian species eg. ratites, quail
Units in large farm complex
Fowl/turkeys or other avian species
200 - 500
Fowl/turkeys or other avian species
Fowl/turkeys or other avian species
2000 - 5000
Duck or waterfowl farms
a The buffer is measured from either the nearest shed walls for older type shedding or from the centroid of the mechanical ventilation system of the newer tunnel ventilation sheds
Staff should be trained to recognise signs of disease and to promptly report any unusual signs or explained deaths. Mortality and disease records must be kept. Increased mortality, falling egg production and respiratory signs may be early indicators of a disease problem. If something unusual or unexpected happens and infectious disease is suspected, veterinary advice should be sought as soon as possible. Rapid recognition of abnormal disease patterns is extremely important and will lead to prompt diagnosis and efficient management of any emergency disease. DPI Victoria conducts testing for suspected emergency disease free of charge to the producer.
The Code of Practice for Biosecurity in the Commercial Egg Industry available from the Australian Egg Corporation Limited www.aecl.org
National Biosecurity Manual: Contract Meat Chicken Farming available from the Australian Chicken Meat Federation www.chicken.org.au
The previous version of this note was published in June 2006.
Published and Authorised by:
Department of Environment and Primary Industries
1 Spring Street
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