Recommendations for Commerical Poultry Flocks in Ontario
Table of Contents
Infectious diseases, such as Avian Influenza (AI), pose a constant
threat to commercial poultry production worldwide, and the Canadian
poultry industry is no exception. Outbreaks of Highly Pathogenic Avian
Influenza (HPAI) in British Columbia and Infectious Laryngotracheitis
(ILT) in Ontario in 2004, plus the detection of several low pathogenic
AI strains in waterfowl across Canada in 2005, demonstrate that the
risk of infection with serious diseases, although low, is constantly
present. The poultry industry in Ontario must, therefore, constantly
protect itself against threats such as AI and ILT. Implementing a
sound "biosecurity" program that is both practical and based on scientific
principles is an inexpensive, yet highly effective tool against such
contagious and costly diseases.
Sources of Infection
Diseases can be introduced to a commercial poultry flock by many
different routes. The most common sources are:
The common thread among the different routes of introduction is exposing
poultry to infected birds, either directly or through exposure to
contaminated people or equipment. The aim of biosecurity is to create
barriers between your birds and the many sources of contamination.
Major Components of a Good Biosecurity Program
An effective biosecurity program is based on two main concepts: exclusion
(keeping the disease out of the flock) and containment (if it has
been introduced, preventing its spread within the premises or to other
uninfected flocks). Because the risks are different for each poultry
operation, consult your veterinarian to customize the biosecurity
program to your specific situation. However, there are certain key
components, addressing both exclusion and containment, which should
be included in any biosecurity program. These are isolation, traffic
control, and cleaning and disinfection (C&D).
1. Isolation: Preventing exposure of your poultry to
viruses and other disease agents is the first step. The following
recommendations are barriers designed to keep your birds isolated
from sources of disease introduction.
Install a sign at the farm gate and at the entrance of each poultry
house to instruct unauthorized people not to enter the premises/houses.
Lock all doors to the poultry houses at all times in order to
Minimize contact with other poultry, including neighbouring backyard
flocks. Do not share any farm equipment, if possible. Do not allow
any farm employees, including manager/owner, to keep backyard
or pet birds, nor attend live bird shows or markets.
Apply a strict rodent and insect control program and monitor its
efficacy regularly. Keep vegetation and debris cleared around poultry
houses, as these will attract rodents.
Avoid situating poultry houses near ponds. These will attract
wild birds and waterfowl that can carry diseases.
Ensure all poultry houses are wild bird proof. Screen all inlets
and fans and plug or repair any gaps and holes in the structure.
Monitor buildings regularly and repair immediately. Immediately
clean feed and water spills in the farm environment, especially
outside poultry houses.
Do not allow dogs and cats inside poultry houses at any time.
Collect routine mortalities several times a day and dispose of
appropriately. It is important to prevent access to dead birds
by wild birds and other animals. In consultation with your veterinarian,
establish a proper carcass disposal protocol. If rendering is
the method of choice, keep daily mortalities in a designated freezer/cooler.
On the scheduled pick-up date, transport dead birds in a covered
rodent/ predator proof container to the roadside or another designated
site that is far from the barns. Clean and disinfect all used
equipment (such as barrels) at the end of carcass pick up.
2. Traffic and visitor control: Since it is not possible to
completely isolate the flock and the farm, it is essential to follow
proper protocols for movement onto and within the operation.
Park all vehicles in a designated area far from poultry houses
and away from farm vehicle traffic areas.
Allow only certain authorized and necessary personnel to enter
poultry houses. It is important that visitors wear clean coveralls
(disposable is preferred), mask, hair protection (cap) and disposable
footwear (if boots are used, have designated boots for each barn
and thoroughly clean and disinfect after each visit). Use disposable
gloves and wash hands with appropriate hand soap or sanitizer
before and after each visit. Regular necessary visitors such as
meter readers, fuel and feed delivery drivers and service personnel,
must also use all necessary clothing and footwear as mentioned.
Use separate dedicated clothing and footwear for each poultry
Keep a record of all visits in a designated logbook. Record names
of the individuals, the nature of their business and their contact
If using a footbath, follow label instructions for the disinfectant
to ensure appropriate concentration and refill as necessary.
A dirty footbath increases the risk of infection.
A shower-in, shower-out policy for all visitors and employees is
the most efficient approach. (This may be more practical for breeder
and primary breeder flocks.)
Catchers must use separate clothing, footwear, mask and hair gear
for each farm. Clean and disinfect catching equipment after each
loading and before entering the next farm. This is extremely important
if only part of the flock is shipped to the processing plant (thinning
out or partial pick up).
It is preferred to have an all-in, all-out system (single age
flock at any given time). If this is not possible, always visit
from youngest to oldest and from healthy to sick flocks.
Always keep clothing and footwear used by the farm manager and
employees on the farm separate from those worn off farm. Do not
allow managers and employees to visit other poultry farms.
3. Cleaning and Disinfection (C&D): While
isolation and hygiene practices are very effective, it is inevitable
that some contamination of the farm environment will occur. Good biosecurity
also prevents diseases from leaving your property. These recommendations
will limit the spread of the contamination within the premises, and
to other premises.
Avoid borrowing or lending farm equipment. If equipment is shared,
clean and disinfect before and after use. Complete removal of
any organic material before disinfection is very important.
Proper sanitation of drinking water is a must. There are different
methods of water sanitation. If applying chlorine, monitor the
level of active chlorine and water pH for effective chlorination.
Clean and disinfect water lines completely between flocks to avoid
build up of biofilm and slime that can harbour germs and inactivate
some disinfectants. Consult with your veterinarian to implement
an effective water sanitation program. If using pond water, proper
sanitation of the water is extremely important as waterfowl and
wild bird excretions can contaminate it.
It is preferred to wash and disinfect (complete C&D) poultry
houses between flocks. It is important to apply disinfection only
after barns are completely cleaned from litter/debris, pressure
washed with warm water and detergent and allowed to dry. Consult
with your veterinarian for a complete detailed C&D program,
as the appropriate steps must be performed in the correct order
for optimal results. If there is a history of an infectious disease
in the previous flock, it is strongly recommended to perform a complete
C&D between flocks regardless of the time of the year.
If possible, manage your manure on-farm, preferably by composting.
This is particularly important for manure from a diseased flock.
Keep the temporary on-farm storage site well away from any barn.
Ideally, have the manure in one pile and cover to protect from
wild birds and water (while following all other provincial regulations).
If manure is hauled at the end of each flock, manure trucks should
be damped and tarped before leaving the farm.
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Biosecurity is Everyone's Responsibility
Keeping serious diseases out of Ontario or out of the commercial
poultry industry is a shared responsibility, from government, to industry
associations down to the individual producer. Nevertheless, the farm
is the last line of defence and it is at the farm level where outbreaks
are most effectively controlled or prevented. As a producer, it is
extremely important to:
Be aware of general clinical signs of disease in birds. Early
detection, by recognizing the signs of infectious diseases and
taking the appropriate action ASAP, can greatly limit the impact
of a disease outbreak and allow for a faster return to normal
operation. Signs that may indicate a significant disease outbreak
include (but are not limited to):
Seek veterinary assistance if your poultry flock looks sick or
abnormal. Your veterinarian will submit the appropriate diagnostic
samples to the Animal Health Laboratory for a proper diagnosis.
Establish and maintain an acceptable biosecurity program at your
farm in consultation with your veterinarian. Review and revise
the biosecurity program continuously.
When a poultry disease is suspected in the area, be prepared,
in consultation with your veterinarian, to heighten the level
of biosecurity (enhanced biosecurity).
The practicality of a biosecurity program depends on the cost, relative
risk and common sense. However, it is the most cost-effective available
tool, considering the potentially devastating consequences of a significant
Diseases such as Avian Influenza can be introduced to commercial
poultry premises by many different routes, including people, equipment,
wild birds, rodents, litter, carcasses, feathers, and possibly by
wind or aerosol spread. By implementing and diligently maintaining
a sound biosecurity program, the producer can put in place the multiple
barriers necessary to minimize the risk of introducing diseases to
the flock or spreading them to other flocks.
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