According to the United Nations, worldwide animal protein consumption will continue to grow to up to 37 kilograms per capita in 2030. This estimation presents our industry with a significant opportunity, and invites us to face, together, new challenges. One of the most important of these challenges is contributing in the production of more protein, of better quality at a lower cost to nourish the wellbeing of the more than 8 billion people that will populate the earth by 2030.
In addition to this challenge, we have to consider the evolution of the modern consumer: highly informed and educated, connected, and demanding in all things health, environment and quality. These new consumers base all their purchasing decisions on those factors. Healthy nutrition is one of the trends that determine the direction of the animal protein production industry worldwide. Furthermore, it invites us to question the industry standards and practices involved in the productive processes.
As such, one of the main questions that we must ask ourselves is: are we really working towards bio secure-farms? Are we aware of the impact of bio-security in reducing sanitary problems, increasing healthy birds, achieving a more efficient use and care of natural resources while decreasing our production costs? This article will allow us to find out more about the true relevance of bio-secure farms.
We can begin by analyzing the concept of bio-security. The term BIO-SECURITY (BIO=LIFE, SECURITY=PROTECTION) encompasses all those preventive measures that, applied permanently and integrally, decrease the risk of infectious processes. This helps to prevent the entry or withdrawal of agents that may lead to diseases that could compromise not only the health of the animal but of the person in charge of its care and the final consumer, leading to economic losses and quality issues with the final product.
Hygiene, order, discipline, environmental management, plague control and other preventive measures such as vaccination are some of the poultry best-practices that comprise bio-security. These measures counteract the infectious and sanitary effects that can arise from stress, decreased immune response, extreme temperature changes or limitations in water or food supply.
Bio-security is the first line of defense of the animal´s health. By implementing the right measures, we can keep the birds in a controlled, sanitary environment that helps achieve healthy growth. As such, given its importance in the optimization of production and its implications in the quality of animal protein, we want to share with you the 10 commandments of biosecurity, which we consider are fundamental in achieving safe, productive poultry farms:
1. Let’s increase our chances of success with a strategic location.
Poultry farms must be located in rural areas. The farther they are from urban areas, the less probability there will be of being subject to visitation by people foreign to the operation. It would be ideal that access roads to the farms are of exclusive use of the personnel that works in them, thus reducing automobile traffic and access of people not related to their operation.
Additionally, it is important to have the access roads paved. The dirt that unpaved roads can generate as vehicles pass by can create micro bacterial sources of contamination in the farms.
Noise from nearby communities, unsanitary nearby facilities (such as slaughter houses, landfills and others) and any other type of poultry and animal farms or sites can generate potential sanitary risks for the farm and the well being of the animals that live within them.
Finally, we must also consider the environmental footprint of the farm, and comply with the established standards in accordance with the legislation of each country. Also, we must always consider the impact of our farms in the health and wellbeing of the communities around them.
2. Let’s keep diseases away with a “Do not enter” sign.
It is important to control access to the farm, restricting access to the sheds to people and objects that are not directly related to the operation and that could pose a risk to the sanitary conditions of the sheds. It is well known that one of the main sources of infectious agents in birds is human beings. As such, only people directly linked with production, and after carefully complying with the bio-security measures established in the farm, should access the interior of the sheds. To control the access of undesired agents to the farm, we recommend that the clean room is accessible through one unique door linking it to the rest of the areas.
All the staff that works within the farm should change their clothes and avoid bringing any personal garments into the sheds. They must also bathe with water and soap, and in some instances, use antiseptic substances. We recommend using only clothes approved and supplied by the farm. In some cases, it is necessary to use clothes of various colors depending on the jobs assigned in each area, so that access is restricted to the designated areas only.
We also recommend controlling vehicle access to the farm. These vehicles must be sanitized and the passengers must comply with the bio-security instructions established by the farm.
3. Rest Periods
We must allow a Rest Period (sanitary void) between each breeding cycle. In it we must empty the sheds for at least ten days. The longer we allow this Rest Period to be, the more we reduce the risks.
4. Clean equipment and areas are vital to the health of your birds.
Without a proper cleaning and disinfection within the farm, we will not be able to achieve the final objective of every bio-security plan. Aside from the daily cleaning assignments, taking advantage of the sanitary voids in the farm between each shed, let’s conduct an exhaustive cleaning and disinfection of the farm.
We must clean and disinfect the detachable equipment outside of the sheds. We must clean the fixed equipment at the same time that we conduct the sanitation of the facilities. Regularly, we must clean and descale the pipes that carry water to the sheds. We must ensure that the drinkable water tanks are washed periodically, ensuring that they are always clean and covered. Finally, we must ensure that the drinking facilities are also checked periodically to ensure that they are kept clean always.
5. Let´s implement proper pest controls
Insects and rodents can transmit infectious agents that can negatively affect production. We must realize that the best time to conduct pest control activities is during the rest periods or sanitary voids in the farm. Amongst the most dangerous insects we can find the common fly and the black beetle (Alphitobious diaperinus).
Also, there is a great variety of rodents (rats, mice or others) that with their 2 km range represent a high risk of contamination to the farm. These animals can bring in or take out a significant number of pathogens from other farms and carry them through their legs, fur or fetal matter. Another way to prevent pest proliferation is avoiding the accumulation of debris and growth of weeds around the farm´s perimeter.
Your facilities must be the same age throughout, keeping in mind the “all-in/all-out” system, which states that all birds must come in and come out at the same time in (all birds must be of the same age) once production is finalized. This reduces the transmission of infectious agents from adult animals to younger ones.
When a new flock of chickens is introduced, it will have to go through a quarantine period of at least 4 months. The purpose of this period is to detect, as much as possible, any signs of disease in the birds. To accomplish this, a series of tests must be conducted to diagnose infectious diseases and/or parasites.
No other types of animals must coexist within the farm, specially other species of birds. Geese, ducks, turkeys, peacocks and other birds act as reservoirs of infectious agents. Additionally, the access to sheds by wild birds must be avoided.
A bird´s immune system can be greatly affected by stressful situations, which can lead to the development of certain microorganisms.
Some external factors that can generate stress on birds are: High density of animals in confined areas which can lead to aggression between them, wounds and ultimately cause the transmission of infectious diseases; lack of well designed nests; abrupt temperature changes; notice; excess light or any color that may lead to aggression, strange odors, water or food intake restriction, salt or sulfide-amino acid deficiency, the presence of personnel foreign to the shed´s operation, the presence of other flock of chickens, lack of adaptation to the housing systems, dead animals exposed to the rest of the flock of chickens, etc.
8. Beak Trimming
This is a solution for cannibalism between chickens, layer hens and reproductive hens. Cannibalism is a constant in chickens of all ages and can be a serious problem if not corrected quickly, especially when the animals are confined in small spaces. Cannibalistic behavior can begin with young chickens pecking each other, older chickens pulling each other´s feathers, and fully-grown birds pecking each other in the head, the tail and the cloaca.
It is imperative that all staff is always on the lookout for aggressive behavior and takes immediate action to prevent the problem from escalating. The most common procedure to decrease cannibalism is Beak Trimming. Birds that grow in sheds with low-intensity lighting might not need this procedure, while those that grow in sheds with high-intensity lighting must go through it while in the incubator or within the first two weeks from being born in it.
There is a special method to trim the beak of birds using heat in broiler chickens when they are one day old. Instead of cutting off the beak, the hot blade is used to burn the area surrounding the top beak. This helps reduce the difficulty of eating for the animal by reducing the sensitivity of the beak. The top beak falls off gradually without causing apparent injuries, leaving the top beak shorter and the bottom beak unaltered.
9. Animal Sanitary Program
In general, vaccination increases a bird´s resistance to disease, but it does not eliminate the possibility that an infection happening in the flock of chickens. Both the incubation facilities and the farms must be under the supervision of a trained veterinarian. We must strictly follow the vaccination schedule, ensure that the biological agents used meet the required specifications to successfully comply with the program and are properly registered in the farms document logs.
10. Disposal of deceased birds.
Every time that there is evidence and clinical indications of unexplained diseases or mortality with unknown causes, the veterinarian responsible for the farm must conduct necropsies, microbiological isolations, serological and/or histopathological diagnosis of the birds.
Let´s conduct routine necropsies of animals that die during different stages of the process in order to gather the diagnostics of the causes of mortality, and, when necessary, take samples to send to the laboratory for further tests and diagnosis.
Let´s keep a registry of necropsies, samples and mortality registers. This is important to monitor the level of exposition and presence of pathogens to determine the immune state of the birds.
Deceased birds must be properly disposed of, for which we can use: septic tanks, incinerators or composting.
Bio-security, when properly implemented at any level, is a magnificent investment when compared to the losses generated by disease and mortality. Results are seen in decreased mortality rates in birds and cost savings in production processes, which benefits our partners and increases the quality of the animal protein for human consumption.
The greatest risk in a farm is lacking an appropriate bio-security plan. This is why this concept is fundamental to the poultry industry to reduce diseases in flocks of chickens. These 10 commandments will allow us to better understand the productive impact that an appropriate bio-security plan can have in our farms; a plan in which our ALURA TEAM can help you with during all phases of implementation.
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