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7 tips for maintaining high biosecurity on egg farms

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AVIAN INFLUENZA remains a present threat to poultry farms across the UK.

This winter, the virus has infected farms across the entire UK, and there is little sign that the risk is any lower.

See also: Winter 2021/2022 H5N1 avian influenza cases in UK and Europe

Here, poultry vet Ian Lowery offers tips for egg producers to ensure biosecurity remains at the highest level.

It is critical to assume that avian influenza is in the environment around your farm – action you take will prevent it from entering sheds.

CONSIDER IN DETAIL

How your farm works – movements of vehicles (egg lorries, muck trailers, feed deliveries), equipment (maintenance tools, trailers) and staff (egg collectors, maintenance staff, muck haulage).

Critically assess each of these activities and review whether there are robust procedures so that access to the site, the service area and the bird area is as safe as possible.

WATCH

Staff and contractors entering the site, moving around the site, and entering the house.

Are they following your rules? Are wheel washers being used? Are vehicles clean? Do procedures need improving? Do staff need educating or reminding?

REMIND STAFF

Explain the danger and the risk and explain the consequences of a biosecurity failure – spend time training and reinforce.

Ensure that everyone is aware of their responsibilities and can navigate the biosecurity barrier properly.


BARRIERS

Should prevent muck or dirt from the outside being moved inside and vice versa.

Properly used, barriers require staff to remove outside shoes on the outside of
the barrier and put on dedicated inside footwear on the other side of the barrier.

The use of plastic overboots at barrier points is NOT recommended. Plastic overboots tear after a few steps and allow the muck from outside to be introduced into the birds’ environment.

DOUBLE BARRIERS

Are better than a single barrier. A step-over barrier at the entrance of the service area, with dedicated service area footwear (e.g. crocs/clogs)
and a second step-over barrier at the entrance to the bird accommodation area (e.g. coloured wellies) will significantly reduce the chance of the introduction of disease.

Anyone caught wearing the wrong shoes in the wrong area should be instantly identifiable and reprimanded.

MAINTENANCE

Ensure the roof of the poultry house does not have holes, ensure
that back doors are watertight and sealed, ensure guttering works, ensure that outside concrete aprons are kept washed and disinfected.

The fabric of the building MUST prevent wild bird access and MUST not allow weather conditions to wash in an infectious viral cocktail.

MULTI-TIER SYSTEMS

Take additional measures to control the risk of walking virus in from the muck cross-belt area, often located after the barrier biosecurity but before the entrance to the bird accommodation area at the front of the house.

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Additional foot dips, or footwear changes, are strongly recommended in this area as the cross-muck belt can allow wild bird faeces to be introduced into this area.

Management of regular muck collection and the additional vehicle movements associated with muck collection from multi-tier units also require additional controls.