Providing practical information to help you protect your farm from biosecurity risks

Chook biosecurity in the spotlight

December 4, 2012

Children, eggs and chooksThe recent small outbreak of H7 avian influenza at an egg farm near Maitland has been swiftly contained and eradicated in a collaborative effort between industry and NSW authorities.

However the incident has thrown a spotlight on the simple but effective farm biosecurity measures which can be implemented at all poultry operations to help prevent potentially disastrous disease outbreaks.

Farm Biosecurity program technical adviser, Duncan Rowland, commended the NSW Department of Primary Industries for coordinating the rapid response to the Maitland outbreak and stressed the need for poultry producers to be especially vigilant in the coming weeks.

“Implementing standard biosecurity procedures is critical to protecting Australia’s poultry industries,” Mr Rowland said. “While the source of the recent outbreak is not yet known, it is thought that wild birds are a major source of infectious diseases, so it is especially important to keep them from entering yards, aviaries and sheds.”

“We recommend restricting the access of other animals, particularly wild birds and rodents, with good fencing and netting.”

To prevent diseases entering your chook farm, Mr Rowland further recommends that you:

  • always source your birds from a reputable producer or breeder quarantine them for at least 10 days before they enter the flock
  • do not share equipment with other bird keepers unless it has been thoroughly cleaned and disinfected
  • restrict your birds’ access to open ponds, lakes, dams and creeks to prevent them from coming into contact with wild aquatic birds
  • do not allow visitors/employees who have been in contact with other birds into your production areas unless they take precautionary measures, such as showering, changing clothes and shoes etc.
  • if attending bird shows, practise good hygiene, quarantine returning birds and feed and handle them last.

To keep disease from spreading, practise routine hygiene by:

  • making sure your clothes, footwear and hands are clean before contact with birds
  • inspecting birds daily and cleaning bird areas weekly
  • cleaning concrete floors, walls and aviary wire, and cleaning and disinfecting feed containers regularly ensuring water supplied to your birds is safe. Dam, creek, lake or river water should be treated with chlorine or UV light
  • ensuring proper veterinary care is provided to pet birds and discussing any unusual signs with your veterinarian.

“All of these practices and many more are described in the Code of Practice for Biosecurity in the Commercial Egg Industry,” Mr Rowland said. “I encourage all egg producers, from free range hobby farmers to large commercial operators, to familiarise themselves with the best practice biosecurity standards of the industry.

The virus at the Maitland facility was the H7 avian influenza strain – not the highly pathogenic H5N1 strain that has gained worldwide attention. However, if unusually high mortalities occur, immediately contact the emergency animal disease hotline (1800 675 888), your veterinarian or the local department of primary industries.

If an outbreak is declared, you will be required to follow biosecurity instructions issued by the Chief Veterinary Officer or department of primary industries.