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Why Isn’t My Biosecurity Program Working?

By December 14, 2020News, PLT

Guest Columnist Helen Wojcinski DVM DVSC ACPV, Wojcinski Poultry Health Consulting LLC

When it comes to biosecurity when all is said and done, more is said than actually done. To have an effective biosecurity program on your farm, it’s critical that all components are consistently implemented and followed by everyone—no exceptions.

The following steps are necessary to eliminate disease agents from your farm:

Know the enemy and get an accurate disease diagnosis

Sometimes there are multiple disease agents on a farm. By accurately identifying them, you’re in a better position to eliminate both active and underlying challenges. Is it just E. coli causing the problem or was the flock exposed to Bordetella or Newcastle virus earlier?

We understand how many disease agents operate. Rodents and other four-footed pests are the primary vectors for Fowl Cholera, while Bordetella is transmitted through contaminated water systems. We also know the susceptibilities and strengths of many disease agents. Clostridial bacteria, which cause Dermatitis/Cellulitis, can form spores making them virtually indestructible, while E. coli and Salmonella are sensitive to most disinfectants when cleaning is done correctly.

When a disease outbreak occurs, revisit your biosecurity program to ensure it’s being followed the way you intended

This means you should have a written biosecurity program that includes a sanitation program and standard operating procedures for anything or anyone that crosses the boundary lines—from dirty to clean zone—within your farm premises.

Ensuring procedures are correctly followed can mean the difference between successfully eliminating a disease agent and failing to. When programs fail, it is often not what you did, but rather how you did it. Many excellent programs fail because they weren’t implemented correctly. For example, failure to effectively clean and disinfect the water system in your barn may be because the wrong product or incorrect concentration was used, or was used at the wrong time. If the program is being followed correctly but disease challenges are still occurring, the program needs to change. Disease agents continue to adapt, evolve and become more resistant which means our programs to eliminate them need to do the same.

Take advantage of the window of opportunity to eliminate disease agents each time a flock leaves the farm

It’s important to maximize your effective dry downtime, which is the number of days that a cleaned and disinfected barn remains empty. The minimum is 7 days but greater health issues will require an increase in dry downtime. While the program may need to be customized for a specific disease agent, in general, the following comprehensive measures should be implemented:

If you’re doing a full clean out, remove the litter and store it away from the barn. Piling litter outside the end doors gives darkling beetles and contaminated water runoff easy access back inside.

Remove ALL organic material (dust, litter, feathers). If you’re debating whether the barn is clean enough, chances are it isn’t. Bring in a fresh set of eyes to review how well the barn was cleaned before disinfectant is applied.

Don’t forget to clean and disinfect entry rooms and, when weather permits, feed bins.

Clean and disinfect (C&D) waterlines prior to removing the litter and then disinfect a second time closer to bird placement. Even though the birds are no longer in the barn, bacteria in the water lines will continue to multiply.

Implement an effective darkling beetle control program. These bugs can carry a variety of intestinal viruses, such as Reovirus, Salmonella, E. coli and Blackhead, and are a main reason diseases are carried over flock after flock regardless of how well C&D was done.

Repair any holes or cracks where wild birds, rodents or water can enter.

Once the barn has been cleaned and disinfected, treat it as a BIOSECURE area and do not contaminate it during set-up or bird placement.

Monitor your biosecurity and sanitation programs

Monitoring will allow you to know with some certainty that the procedures you have in place are effective rather than just thinking they are.

Swab waterlines post disinfection, which is preferable to taking a drip water sample as higher bacterial levels may be found.

Take daily measurements at the end of the water line to ensure you’re reaching the target regardless of the product or system.

Swab the clean barn environment post disinfection. This is particularly important in brooder barns as young birds are more susceptible to low levels of challenge.

Ensure the product and method you’re using to control darkling beetle populations are effective. Read the label. Beetles can develop resistance. If necessary, consider spot treatment with a product approved for use with birds in the barn.

Check bait stations. An empty bait station is a waste. Just because you don’t have cholera on your farm, doesn’t mean your rodent control is good.

Consider that routine serology of your flocks will indicate whether they are being challenged and the effectiveness of your vaccination program.

Review all monitoring results regularly in conjunction with flock performance and make the changes necessary to achieve your goals

Remember, if you don’t look, you won’t find, and you may consequently miss an opportunity to take corrective action.

Although this article is not specifically about environmental management, it’s important to remember that when turkeys are stressed or their natural defences are compromised through exposure to ammonia, dust or unsanitary water, disease agents can more easily take over and become resident on the farm.

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