Biosecurity and the Bird Keeper

Biosecurity and the Bird Keeper

By Rick Kleyn

The term biosecurity, a relatively new word in our vocabulary, is not found in many dictionaries. It’s broad meaning is the literal safety of live things, or the freedom from care for live things. In this article, biosecurity will mean the protecting of your birds from any type of infectious agent, be it viral, bacterial, fungal, or parasitic.

In essence, biosecurity is accomplished by maintaining a site (farm, loft or aviary) in such a way that there is minimal traffic of biological organisms (viruses, bacteria, fungi, rodents, etc.) across its borders. Biosecurity is the cheapest, most effective means of disease control available. No disease prevention program will work without it.

Aviculture has become more and more technically efficient and sophisticated. In addition the value of many bird collections has skyrocketed both in economic and environmental terms. Intensification leads to the concentration of many birds in one space. Disaster can strike at anytime unless vigilance is constant.

Biosecurity is widely and rigorously applied to most branches of animal agriculture and it becomes increasingly important when animal or bird numbers on a site increase or when stocking densities increase. It also plays a role when the numbers of sites or farms in an area increase, or when the value of the animals in a collection is high.

How do we apply biosecurity?

Diseases can be transmitted within a site in a number of ways:

  • Carrier birds within a flock
  • Recently acquired birds. Sometimes these birds appear healthy but they may have recovered from disease and now carriers.
  • Eggs from infected birds
  • Human feet, hands, and clothes
  • Dust, feathers, manure on equipment and supplies such as bedding
  • Feral birds, predators, rodents, flies, and insects
  • Contaminated feed and feed bags.
  • Dirty water

Air

Of all of these factors, the introduction of new birds and traffic on and off the site (particularly people) pose the greatest risk to bird health on any farm. Properly managing these two factors should be a top priority on your farm. New birds represent a threat because their disease status is unknown. They may have an infection or, equally importantly, they may be susceptible to an infection that is already present in birds that appear normal (healthy carriers) on your farm.

An effective biosecurity program can only be achieved by focusing on all of a farms systems:

1. Isolation refers to the confinement of animals within a controlled environment. A fence keeps your birds in, but it also keeps other animals out. Isolation also applies to the practice of separating birds by age group. In poultry operations, “all-in/all-out” management styles allow simultaneous depopulation of farms between f locks and thus allow time for a thorough cleanup and disinfection to break the cycle of any disease.

“All in/all out” systems are not realistic for bird keepers. However, with a little bit of planning it should be possible to isolate any new birds entering a collection and/or any sick birds. Isolation cages should be located as far away from the resident birds as possible. At least 2 weeks of quarantine is suggested; 4 weeks is better. In addition, it is a good idea to ”dust” any birds entering and/or leaving an isolation site with a dry powder disinfectant such as Stalosan® F. This will effectively kill residual pathogens carried on the birds feathers and body parts.

Use a different pair of shoes in the isolation area and in the resident bird area to prevent the mechanical transfer of disease organisms on shoes. Footwear should be disinfected at each site. Footbaths may help to decrease the dose of organisms on boots.

Wash your hands with a disinfectant soap after handling birds in isolation or birds of different age groups.

Establish a “clear zone” free of vegetation around buildings to discourage rodent and insect traffic into the buildings.

2. Traffic control includes both the traffic coming onto your farm and the traffic patterns within the farm. It refers to the movement of both people and vehicles. Biosecurity generally requires human traffic control, such as locking the doors and banning all visitors, or allowing entry to certain authorised and

necessary personnel only after they have put on clean clothing but most importantly clean footwear.

Unfortunately, the greatest threat to your own biosecurity is visits from fellow bird keepers. There is no need to make a real issue of this, simply ask them to shower and put on clean clothing when they visit your collection. Provide them with clean footwear (flip-flops work well). It is for this reason that most large poultry companies insist that their staff do not keep birds at home.

Openings in buildings should be screened with a properly sized protective wiring to keep out flying or walking predators. Protection from predators is almost impossible to achieve when birds are kept on a range, but steps can be taken to minimise the dangers. Grass and bushes can be kept trimmed for a few feet on each side of the fence. This will allow detection of burrowing rodents as well as force the predators to approach the fence without the benefit of cover.

3. Sanitation refers to the general cleanliness of the site. It also addresses the disinfection of materials and equipment entering the farm and the cleanliness of the personnel on the farm.

Plan periodic clean out, clean up, and sanitation of facilities and equipment. It is suggested that this be diarised to be carried out on a regular basis (i.e. every 6 weeks) Disinfect drinkers and feeders on a regular basis. For young birds (hand rearing) this should be carried out daily, whereas once a week is probably adequate for mature birds. Remember that drying and sunlight are very effective in killing many disease-causing organisms.

To disinfect a bird enclosure or farm, follow these steps.

First, clean

1. Remove all bedding, feed, feeding equipment, nest boxes and manure.
2. Sweep out loose dirt, cobwebs, etc.
3. Scrub all surfaces with a detergent/disinfectant.
4. Rinse all detergent and organic matter from surfaces. A steam or high- pressure water hose may be helpful for steps 3 and 4.

Next, sanitise

1. Apply the disinfectant.
2. Allow the disinfectant to dry completely.
3. Replace any bedding with fresh materials.
4. Disinfect any new bedding with a disinfectant powder such as Stalosan® F.
5. Rinse all water and feeding equipment before refilling them.

Lastly, keep it clean

  1. Have a regular cleaning schedule.
  2. Remove any dead birds immediately.

3. Use a long lasting disinfectant such as Stalosan® F on a weekly basis.

This works particularly well when used in nest boxes.

Choosing the right products to use to both wash and disinfect your facilities is important. You will need to consider a number of characteristics that could include efficacy (killing efficiency against viruses, bacteria, and fungi), activity with organic matter, toxicity (relative safety to animals). There is a wide range of different products on the market. These include a number of groups of chemical compounds such as the halogens, phenolic acids and quaternary ammonium compounds. Detergents are mildly germicidal and good cleaning agents, but they are not suitable for disinfection of premises. Virukill is an excellent example of a liquid disinfectant that can be used for all classes of birds

Keeping any facility clean on an ongoing basis is difficult. Liquid disinfectants all have shortcomings, the first of which is that they are mostly no longer efficacious once they have dried out. Secondly, most of them will not work in the presence of organic matter such as manure. Lastly, many of them are toxic to the animal themselves, which means that the birds need to be removed from their enclosure for effective cleaning. Fortunately when a dry disinfectant powder such as Stalosan® F is used, the birds can be left where they are as the product is completely non-toxic and it continues to be effective in the presence of organic material. Ii also has residual action for as long as a week at a time. Applying Stalosan® F at a rate of 50 g/m3 per week will greatly reduce the general pathogen load that your birds are exposed to. In addition, it reduces odour problems, and endo and ectoparasites such as coccidiosis and mites. It will also help keep damp areas dry.

It is worth mentioning the handling of any bedding used on site. Most, if not all bedding, be it straw or wood shavings will contain some form of contamination. More often than not this is in the form of moulds, particularly of the Aspergillus sp. These moulds lead to a common avian disease called aspergillocis. Ensuring that the bedding being used on the farm is clean to start with can prevent this disease. Dusting with Stalosan® F is an effective way in which to achieve this. Secondly, nesting material must be kept clean and replaced on a regular basis. Sprinkling Stalosan® F in the nest boxes in a weekly basis would also be of great benefit.

4. Site Planning should encompass all aspects of biosecurity. Small steps taken at this stage can save much heartache later on. The first and most important question that needs to be asked when planning a site is location. It makes little sense to place a valuable collection too close to other birds, be they other bird collections, large poultry concerns and even a concentration of wild birds.

Obviously security is key. Fortunately, all of the steps that need to be taken to ensure that theft does not occur are also ideal for biosecurity. Things like restricted access and a single, controllable entrance are key.

Traffic flow on any farm is important. The reason for this is that young birds are most susceptible to diseases, while older birds will usually have developed some degree of immunity to most common diseases. In addition, older birds may be carriers of disease. Direct the flow of human traffic from youngest birds to oldest birds. Direct the traffic flow from the resident f lock to the isolation area.

How much biosecurity do I need?

In order to assess how much biosecurity is practical for your farm, look at these three factors.

1. Economics. There are two economic factors that need to be borne in mind. Firstly, the value of the birds that you are protecting and secondly the cost of implementing effective biosecurity.
2. Common sense. Most biosecurity measures require only common sense and not money to solve them. Measures like dealing with young birds first and sick and new birds in isolation last will help an enormous amount.

3. Relative risk. It is important to assess your relative risk as a bird fancier. Obviously, the larger your operation and the more valuable your birds are the greater the risk will be. Other factors to consider would be what does the neighbourhood look like or do your staff live in or go home to their own poultry every night.

Conclusions

In conclusion, by taking a few very simple steps it is possible to greatly reduce the risk of disease threat to your bird collection. More importantly though, biosecurity should be seen as a courtesy. When practised properly, it will help keep producers and neighbours out of trouble. Disease control is, in part, being responsible and ethical to others. Don’t visit your friends if you suspect that you may have a problem in your own back yard. Respect other bird keepers who ask you to comply to their own set of biosecurity rules, even if this means you cannot see his stock.

Diseases cannot be controlled and eradicated by keeping quiet or providing misinformation. When trying to eradicate or prevent infectious agents, bird keepers can do an enormous amount themselves by applying a biosecurity program. They value of maintaining low levels of circulating pathogens cannot be overstated. It need not cost a lot of money and we need to take advantage of natural agents such as sunlight and drying, rain and dilution, and time.

Contact: rick@spesfeed.co.za / +27 31 766 0016.