Nov. 15, 2016

Biosecurity- What does it mean?

Animal Welfare

In late 2014, Canada and the United States started to see a very highly pathogenic form of avian influenza (AI) hit some domestic poultry on the west coast. Since the mortality of chickens and turkeys infected with this virus is very high (up to 50% within 48 hours), this virus can be categorized as a highly pathogenic Avian Influenza virus. In spring of 2015, the problem moved east into the central parts of North America. This disease is spreading through North America by wild birds (such as geese and ducks) as they travel north through the migratory flyways. As of mid-May 2015, in the United States, more than 35 million laying hens have been affected by this disease learn more. This is about 10% of the USA egg supply.  What makes this strain of avian influenza so problematic is the fact that it is extremely contagious and that domestic chickens and turkeys have no immunity to the disease.  Presently, there are no vaccines that can be used to help prevent the disease, so the only tools that are in our biosecurity tool box are practices that keep the virus from entering our farms.

What is biosecurity?

Sounds a little foreboding we know but biosecurity is essential to maintain the health of our hens so that we are able to continuously supply Canadians with a safe and abundant food supply. The original definition of biosecurity started out as a set of preventive measures designed to reduce the risk of transmission of infectious diseases in crops and livestock.  There are many things we do to keep our farms biosecure, everything from vaccinating our hens when they are young to cleaning and disinfecting our barns. To protect our hens and eggs, we consider the interior of our barns to be “cleaner” than the surrounding outside area. It is our objective to keep all bacteria and pathogens from entering the barns – this is why we have strict biosecurity measures in place at all times.  And, now, these measures are more important than ever

How do we implement biosecurity on our farms?

Our farms always practice biosecurity to prevent avian influenza as well as many other poultry diseases and infections from infecting our birds.  Biosecurity starts at the farm gate! Our poultry employees arrive and immediately change into their “clean” barn clothes upon entering the barns.  These are clothes that stay in the barn and have not been exposed to areas outside the barn. They enter the change room where they put on their clean coveralls, hair net, and face masks.

It is important to cover street clothes that might be contaminated with something harmful to the hens. They then prepare to “cross the red line”, at this point they either change their footwear with clean barn footwear or cover their street shoes with plastic boots to enter the barn. A contaminant might be something as simple as duck or goose feces that adheres to the bottom of a shoe

Biosecurity protects Canada’s Egg Supply

Because of the impact that this highly pathogenic avian influenza is having on the poultry industry, all of our grading stations and farms are implementing enhanced strict biosecurity practices to reduce our risk of getting and spreading this terrible disease. When our trucks visit local egg farms  weekly to pick up eggs for grading, drivers wear biosecurity clothing (disposable coveralls) and footwear (plastic shoe covers). They also disinfect the wheels and wheel wells of their vehicles.  We do the same on farm with any vehicles that visit and have been in Biosecurity Yellow alertcontact with poultry farms.  These heightened biosecurity measures will remain in effect until the end of the spring migration in late June or longer, depending on the extent to which AI continues to spread across North America and can be found in the wild bird population.  Canadian farmers are committed to practicing excellent biosecurity and taking good care of their poultry.  We all work hard every day to ensure a safe and abundant food supply for Canadians.

Craig Hunter

Vice President, Poultry Operations and Producer Relations

Craig has spent over 90% of his career working in the poultry industry in various roles. He has worked in the poultry breeding and hatchery business as well as pullet and egg business and the grain and feed industry. He grew up on a poultry farm and graduated from the University of Guelph with an honours degree in Poultry Science.