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News & features archive, 2011

Farm Biosecurity: Less diseases, better performance, and higher profits

© FAO/T. Segal

21 September 2011 - The size of the poultry industry has more than doubled in the last 20 years in developed and developing countries. This growth has been supported by improvements in genetics, nutrition, growing methods, processing and marketing. Intensification of poultry production renders the industry more susceptible to threats of poultry diseases, such as Newcastle or Gumboro, and in some cases diseases that might affect human health, such as H5N1 Avian Influenza and Salmonella. All these diseases pose significant economic threats to the poultry industry.

Preventing and controlling the incursion of such detrimental diseases into poultry farms, regardless of size and type of production, requires the implementation of measures, such as biosecurity, vaccination, and preventative medication. Importantly, it should be noted that prevention is always cheaper than treating diseases or suffering the effects of an outbreak.

Studies in the U.S. in the 80s and 90s confirmed that biosecurity is the cheapest, most effective means of disease prevention. The studies demonstrated how a relatively small investment in developing and implementing a biosecurity plan, educating staff, and improving housing and equipment could yield healthier birds and greater profits. Comparatively higher costs are associated with disease outbreak and concomitant bird mortality and diminished performance due to slow growth, poor feed conversion rate, drops in egg production and hatchability, increases in carcass condemnations, and high costs of medication and decontamination.

Biosecurity plans require an adoption of a set of attitudes and behaviors that reduce risk in activities involving poultry production and marketing. A comprehensive, detailed, practical and easily understood plan is most effective. It is achievable if it is farm-specific. There is no panacean formula for all poultry farms; each farm has its own unique conditions requiring specialized solutions. A farm’s staff members should participate in the development and implementation of the plan, assuring understanding, involvement, and commitment to the success of the biosecurity plan.

Consistency in following biosecurity rules is crucial. Likewise, regular follow-up evaluations of the plan’s efficacy assure success. The plan should be dynamic, ever-evolving, and able to adapt to new field conditions.

A typical biosecurity plan includes three essential elements:

  1. Segregation and Traffic Control,
  2. Cleaning, and
  3. Disinfection.

The following four presentations have been crafted to serve as training manuals for on-farm biosecurity (PDFs):