Is Your Farm Biosecure?

Avian influenza continues to be a threat to poultry producers everywhere. But, it's important to remember that other contagious diseases can pose a threat to your farm and the best way to prevent spreading illness is to implement biosecurity practices. Biosecurity doesn't just apply to poultry; it is beneficial for all livestock. Whether you are a backyard hobbyist with just a few hens, or a large-scale farmer handling hundreds of animals a day, biosecurity can help keep your animals safe from disease spread. Continue reading for tips to keep your farm biosecure and protect your flock from avian influenza.

Most Probable Vectors of Avian Influenza

The most probable vectors, or carriers, of highly pathogenic avian influenza, include, but may not be limited to migratory waterfowl, farm to house, or other farms and barns, and pests such as beetles and rodents. Birds that have contracted avian influenza but are not yet showing symptoms may still pass the virus along to your flock. Due to the highly pathogenic nature of this particular virus strain, it is best to err on the side of caution. Even if there have been no outbreaks in your county it is best to assume that migrating fowl are carrying the virus. Assume that delivery men and other farmers have inadvertently come in contact with the virus. Assume that a pest infestation could bring avian flu onto your farm. The old saying "Better safe than sorry" goes a long way when protecting your farm.   

Pest Security

Now that you know where the virus can come from we'll discuss how to keep it from infecting your flock. Let's start with pest security. As you are probably already aware of, keeping your farm free from pests starts with site cleanliness. Aside from keeping your facilities as clean as possible, a good insecticide and/or rodenticide program will help to keep the pest population down. Rotating baits will improve effectiveness and help fight bait resistance. For example, rotating Optimate CS Insecticide with boric acid during a pest season will provide effective beetle control. Do your research or contact your salesperson to determine which insecticide or rodenticide program would be most effective in your area for your particular pest problem. Taking security measures in your pest control can help prevent pests from bringing H7N8 or other viruses to your animals.     

Site Security

The best way to make sure that your site is secure is to control everything that goes into your barns. Supply footbaths, designated footwear, caps, gloves, and handwashing stations for workers and visitors. Permit only essential workers and vehicles to enter your farm. Keep dogs and cats out of barns, they are not biosecure. Be sure to establish a "safe zone" away from your flock for deliveries and let suppliers know about it before delivery. Make sure to clean and disinfect your own vehicles and equipment, including undercarriage and tires, that are entering and exiting the farm. Do not loan or borrow equipment or vehicles from other farms and avoid visiting other poultry farms if possible. Implementing a water sanitation program may also reduce the risk of introducing pathogenic viruses to your animals. Don't bring birds from slaughter channels, especially live-bird markets, back to the farm as they could be carrying the virus.

Symptoms of HPAI

Birds affected with Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza may exhibit one or more of the following symptoms. Keep a close eye on your flock and if you suspect your birds have been affected by HPAI call the USDA Veterinary Service office at 1-866-536-7593.
  • Sudden death without showing clinical signs
  • Lack of energy and/or appetite
  • Decrease in egg production
  • Swelling of the head, eyelids, comb, wattles, and hocks
  • Purple discoloration of the wattles, combs, and legs
  • Soft-shelled or misshapen eggs
  • Nasal discharge
  • Coughing and sneezing
  • Lack of coordination
  • Diarrhea

For More Information

For more detailed information on biosecurity measures, cleaning and disinfection practices, contact your local USDA APHIS' Veterinary Services (VS) office. You can reach Indiana's USDA APHIS VS office at 317-347-3100.