Biosecurity: ‘It doesn’t have to be boring’
What comes to mind when you hear the word “biosecurity”?
Even though it’s a critically important subject, many poultry producers tune it out — for the simple reason that it bores them, said Nathaniel Tablante, DVM, a professor and poultry veterinarian at Virginia-Maryland College of Veterinary Medicine Extension.
“A lot of people seem to be tired of hearing that word already,” he told Poultry Health Today.
A weak biosecurity system can trigger the spread of diseases that threaten animal welfare, performance and profitability. Tablante said one of the keys to stimulating interest in biosecurity is talking about it in the context of broader subjects related to poultry production.
“We have to talk about biosecurity in a more interesting way, in a more positive way, not by dictating policy or guidelines to our clients,” he said.
Talking about biosecurity at workshops or seminars can be “fun to do if it’s incorporated into the bigger picture of poultry production — how to make it work, how to protect our chickens.”
He said many studies have been conducted that showed workers at some farms cutting corners on biosecurity measures in order to save time. In one study, a professor at the University of Guelph set up cameras at entrances to poultry farms in North Carolina to monitor the workers’ compliance with biosecurity measures. The footage showed that people took short cuts around the compliance measures so they could save time during farm visits, Tablante said.
He cited the avian influenza outbreak of 2015 as an example of what can happen in the absence of a sound biosecurity system. Like any virus, he continued, influenza is impossible to see — it can hide in cracks and crevices and live in manure. Nasal and oral secretions of infected birds also can transmit it rapidly, in part because it sticks easily to clothes and shoes.
“So, if you impress upon people going out there in the fields that they may carry this (virus) in their cars and footwear — and tell producers to be careful because this virus can get into their birds — then they would appreciate the value of practicing good biosecurity,” Tablante said.
Tablante has some suggestions for increasing biosecurity compliance on farms.
First, make sure there is a steady supply of sanitary materials, such as disposable boot coverings and hand sanitizers, available. Also, let people coming to the poultry farm — workers, inspectors, and gas and electric meter readers, for example — know where these items are kept and have access to them.
Second, follow best practices. He said some producers have successfully incorporated biosecurity measures into their routine and require contract growers to follow them. For example, at the entrance to one farm he’s visited, there’s a mailbox that holds a sign-in sheet, disposable boot coverings and hand sanitizers.
“Before they get inside have to put on that personal protective equipment,” he said. “If you provide those things people will comply. From there it becomes routine, and then it becomes a habit.”
Third, keep the rules simple.
“Make it easy for people to comply and make sure they are trained to know the rules. Avoid technical jargon,” he said.