Biosecurity for poultry producers

Biosecurity measures for prevention of diseases

Protecting poultry flocks from disease-causing microorganisms is an extremely important part of the commercial poultry production environment.

The introduction of highly pathogenic, contagious diseases such as avian influenza or Salmonella enteritidis into poultry flocks could result in serious health and welfare issues for the birds, and economic consequences for the producer.

The high concentration of large commercial poultry flocks of broilers, layers, and other poultry species in certain regions of Victoria, significantly increase the risk of introduction and transmission of diseases.

Poultry companies and individual poultry producers, regardless of farm size, must practice biosecurity measures to prevent the introduction and spread of disease-causing organisms.

Biosecurity is a shared responsibility between government and industry.

The following resources are available to help poultry producers develop biosecurity plans:

Contract poultry growers should be familiar with the specifics of their company’s biosecurity protocols and work closely with the company veterinarian and service person to implement biosecurity programs.

Conduct a risk assessment for your farm

A risk assessment must be conducted for each farm to establish what level of risk exists in each phase of its operations.

A farm-specific biosecurity plan is the best management tool on poultry farms to reduce the risk of introducing infectious diseases such as avian influenza, Newcastle disease or Salmonella enteritidis, as well as many other poultry diseases.

How disease agents might spread between poultry flocks

Viruses, bacteria, and parasites can spread between poultry flocks through exposure to:

  • contaminated equipment and vehicles that move between farms
  • contaminated clothing and footwear of farm workers or visitors
  • infected animals, such as wild birds, insects, rodents, and pets
  • contaminated air, on particles of dust from nearby farms or market. gardens that apply untreated poultry manure as fertiliser
  • contaminated water, of dam or creek, used for drinking or cooling.

How biosecurity procedures can protect your flock

The following biosecurity measures should be implemented by poultry producers to ensure the good health of their birds.

1. Keep visitors to your farm to a minimum

Disease-causing microorganisms can be found on human’s clothes, shoes, skin, and hair. Restricting unnecessary human traffic is an important part of an effective biosecurity plan. Producers should:

  • fence the birds keeping area, and post signs at the entrance to the farm, indicating that entry to the farm and facilities is restricted
  • restrict visitors to their farm, allowing only to essential visitors
  • provide visitors with protective equipment such as boots, coveralls, and headgear
  • ensure that visitors’ hands are washed or sanitised before entry into the farm area
  • use a footbath with a fresh disinfectant solution at the entry to each poultry house on site
  • ensure that traffic through poultry houses is always flowing in one direction, from younger to older and from healthy to sick birds
  • educate employees and their local community about the risks to their flocks, the need to implement biosecurity procedures and restrict traffic on their farms.

Visitors should never enter poultry houses unless approved by the producer or company personnel.

One useful measure is keeping records in a logbook of visitors that have been on the farm. If a problem arises, knowing who was there will help in limiting additional flock infections.

2. Limit visitations to other poultry farms

To minimise the risk of disease transmission between farms:

  • poultry producers should avoid visiting other poultry operations unless necessary:
  • before entering the other farm, shower and wear clean protective clothing including, boots, coveralls, and headgear:
  • Wash and sanitise vehicle and equipment before entering the farm:
  • before returning to their farm, producers should clean and disinfect all clothing, shower, and change into clean clothes
  • washing and sanitising any vehicle and equipment before re-entering the farm is also required.

3. Keep all pets out of poultry houses

Pets such as dogs, cats and other animals can be carriers of poultry disease causing organisms. Poultry producers should not allow pets inside the poultry houses.

4. Practice an effective rodent and insect control programs

Rats, mice, and insects such as flies and darkling beetles can carry and spread disease-causing organisms.

Producers should consult with the local pest controller or their company and use effective rodent and insect control programs.

Traps and approved chemicals can be used to eliminate or reduce pests, which will reduce the risk of contracting or spreading poultry diseases.

5. Avoid contact with non-commercial poultry or wild birds

Poultry growers should avoid all contact with non-commercial sources of poultry that might have different level of vaccination or health status.

Farm employees should not be allowed to keep poultry or cage birds at home, which may be a source of diseases.

Neighbours who keep backyard flocks should be informed of the importance of getting sick or unhealthy birds to the local vet or a diagnostic lab as soon as possible.

Poultry houses and ranges should be kept as secured as possible to prevent wild birds from access to the feeders and drinkers on site as they might defecate and be a source of diseases.

Producers with a dam on-site should be concerned with the presence of waterfowls and the potential of carrying droppings from around the dam into their poultry houses. Waterfowls are well known to be carriers of the avian influenza virus as well as other poultry diseases.

6. Keep areas around poultry sheds and feed-bins clean

Keep grass and weeds cut around poultry houses and remove old equipment or rubbish that provide refuge and habitat for rats, mice and insect pests that can spread disease.

Spilled feed around the feed bins should be cleaned up regularly to avoid attracting wild birds, rats, mice, and insects.

7. Collect and dispose dead birds daily

Dead birds should be picked up daily and disposed of in a timely and approved method. Stock-piling mortality inside the poultry house and allowing carcasses to decompose before disposal increases the risk of spreading disease directly or via rodents and insects.

Producers should report increases in mortality, drop in egg production or signs of health problems to their veterinarian or the service person immediately. This will ensure rapid detection and response if a disease is present.

In cases of unusual high mortalities or a sharp drop in egg production report immediately to your veterinarian or by calling the all-hours Emergency Animal Disease Hotline on 1800 675 888.

Producers should check with their veterinarian before administrating vaccines or medications for treatments of flocks with a health problem.

Timely reporting of health issues on a farm will help prevent the spread of the disease to other farms and will minimise losses.

Page last updated: 16 Jan 2023