SMALL SCALE BIOSECURITY
C heap but effective disease control
Biosecurity is a ‘big’ word that, for many small-scale poultry farmers, makes them think of government intrusion, regulations and policies. However, biosecurity is a basic and fundamental requirement that anyone rearing chickens should be aware of if they want to protect their flock.
With limited biosecurity implementation – or none at all, a backyard or small-scale poultry producer is at a high risk from infectious diseases such as Newcastle disease and Salmonella – not to mention Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza (HPAI).
To prevent and avoid infectious poultry diseases, some that are also a threat to human health, national flock health and the economy, there is a need to implement basic biosecurity measures in small-scale backyard chicken
Benterprises. Biosecurity should be a regulated standard measure, implemented in all production facilities or places that rear poultry. It is the cheapest and most effective method of disease control in poultry.
What is biosecurity?
iosecurity is a measure implemented in farms, mostly commercial, to prevent the introduction and persistence of infectious agents through control of traffic (people and vehicles), proper adequate sanitation, and the isolation of flocks, particularly young chicks. Biosecurity literally means provision of safety to living things - ‘bio’ refers to life and ‘security’ means protection.
A broiler farmers’ day in Polokwane was held to educate and share information with small-scale farmers on broiler production, management and disease prevention. I was given the opportunity to do a presentation on biosecurity as a form of disease prevention to a broiler producer community that was rearing and producing 5 500 birds per week, weighing between 370g and 400g at slaughter.
To demonstrate how low the biosecurity measures were in these flocks, the broiler houses were located and fenced with residential houses. There was no entrance gate for human and vehicle traffic control and restriction of movement of vehicles. There was no control or records of the visitors, and no farm safety clothes and shoes. Cooking of poultry and other poultry products took place on the farm, and no rodent, wild birds or foreign animal isolation programmes were in place. A mortality
pit was not available, and the community ate and sold birds that had died from unknown diseases to people in the same community. Feed and bedding was not stored in a secure place.
All of the factors above are some very simple basic biosecurity measures that needed to be implemented by the community, but because they did not understand how operational biosecurity works on a farm, I gave them a few important pointers.
With the aim of preventing the entry of pathogenic organisms onto the farm, avoiding profit losses due to diseases, and to protect human health, biosecurity helps keep out diseases and limit their spread, protects human health, improves the overall health of the flock, reduces mortality and increases profitability.
The three major biosecurity measures required to control the spread of diseases are to isolate birds in different houses and far away from contact with ordinary people; control the traffic of both people and vehicles; and sanitation.
Record keeping as part of a disease prevention biosecurity plan includes noting who was on the farm, when they were there, what brought them onto the farm, and whether they had been on another poultry facility.
What should we do going forward? Given the current disease status at poultry farms in South Africa, many may agree on the importance of shifting focus, investing time and standardising policies to implement operational biosecurity measures on small-scale and backyard farms through educational programmes and practical training.
In 2013 an outbreak of Newcastle disease from a backyard flock was reported, but owing to a lack of reporting and co-ordination, the disease spread into some commercial farms, affecting the industry’s economy and production. Once an outbreak of infectious disease like Newcastle breaks out and becomes established and endemic in the country, it is very difficult to eradicate these from the farm - and control is both time consuming and costly.
Given the threat posed to poultry by infectious diseases such as Newcastle as well as other zoonotic diseases in smallholder poultry flocks, a comprehensive plan or programme to identify simpler and adaptive methods or ways of implementing biosecurity measures in the smallholder poultry flocks, as well as educate farmers, is continually required. Its sole purpose is to protect the national flock through education, monitoring and management of diseases that threaten the health of the flock, and therefore food security.¡