Biosecurity basics for poultry farmers
Avoid Contact with Non-Commercial Poultry or Wild Birds
Poultry growers should avoid all contact with non-commercial sources of poultry including backyard flocks, fanciers, fairs, poultry shows, and markets. These types of poultry are seldom fully vaccinated for the major poultry diseases and they are often exposed to many types and flocks of birds. Non-commercial birds represent extremely high-risk contacts. Employees should not be allowed to own their own poultry and neighbors with backyard flocks should be informed of the importance of getting sick or unhealthy birds to a diagnostic lab as soon as possible. Growers should also avoid wild birds such as ducks, geese and turkeys. Growers with farm ponds should be particularly concerned with the potential of carrying droppings from wild birds around ponds into their poultry houses. Wild birds are well known to be carriers of the avian influenza virus as well as other poultry diseases. Hunters should be sure they take the same biosecurity precautions as if they were visiting another poultry farm (i.e. showering, changing clothes, sanitizing vehicles, etc.).
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Inspect Flocks Daily
Growers are required by their contract to inspect their flocks every day. Mortality should be picked up daily and disposed of in a timely and approved method. Stock-piling mortality and allowing carcasses to decompose before disposal increases the risk of spreading disease via rodents and insects. Growers should report increases in mortality or signs of health problems to their service representative immediately. This is required by contract and will ensure a rapid detection and response should a disease be present. Growers should check with their poultry company before using any vaccines, medications or drug treatments for a flock health problem. Timely reporting of health issues on a farm will not only help restrict additional infections, but will minimize losses to both the grower and the company.
Maximize the Environment
Maintaining litter in a relatively dry condition (i.e. 20%-30%) and providing good ventilation will help control microorganism numbers. Wet conditions combined with warm in-house temperatures provide a good growth environment for most disease causing organisms. Good ventilation also helps reduce microorganisms as fresh air entering and leaving the house dilutes microbe populations and removes them from the house. Poor ventilation can result in irritation of the respiratory tract of birds making them more susceptible to bacterial and viral infections.
Keep Areas Around Houses and Feed Bins Clean
Keeping grass and weeds cut around poultry houses and removing used equipment or trash is beneficial in keeping rodent and insect populations under control. Thick grass or weeds and old equipment provide refuge and habitat for rats, mice and insect pests that can spread disease. Spilled feed should be cleaned up regularly and not allowed to collect for long periods of time. Spilled feed around the feed bins will attract birds, rats, mice and insects.
Recognizing Disease Symptoms
It is important for poultry growers to be aware of signs of disease in their flocks. Early detection of contagious diseases can greatly reduce the impact and spread of that disease to other flocks. Clinical signs associated with the possibility of a disease in a poultry flock are:
- Lack of energy and appetite
- Decreased egg production
- Soft-shelled eggs or misshapen eggs
- Swelling of the head, eyes, comb, wattles and hocks
- Purple discoloration of the wattles, combs and legs
- Nasal discharge
- Coughing, wheezing and sneezing
- Lack of coordination in mobility
- Sudden or excessive mortality without clinical signs
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Protecting poultry flocks from microorganism contamination is an extremely important component of commercial poultry production environment. The introduction of a highly pathogenic, contagious disease organism into poultry flocks could result in serious economic consequences for producers. The effectiveness of a biosecurity program can be optimized by regional participation. While any level of biosecurity is helpful, if all poultry producers in a given area utilize best management programs, the program as a whole will be more effective. Practicing sound biosecurity procedures every day as part of a best management program will help reduce the possibility of contracting a disease and will reduce the spread of disease should an outbreak occur.
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