This season’s avian influenza (AI) outbreak has caused untold damage to many UK poultry farmers causing financial loss, operational downtime and reputational damage.
The highly-pathogenic H5N1 strain of influenza continues to sweep across the UK, affecting not only farm businesses, but backyard poultry owners and the wild bird population across the country.
These recent events have proved that biosecurity is now more important than ever, with experts saying that bird flu could be endemic in the wild bird population in the UK. Previously, as part of a prevention plan, the government implemented a country-wide housing order as well as a nationwide avian influenza prevention zone. As these have been lifted, the importance of implementing and following strict biosecurity measures has been continually echoed.
Excellent biosecurity on farms has become the driving message from the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Health (Defra) and APHA to UK poultry farmers with the UK’s four chief veterinary officers saying in a joint statement:
“Whilst the lifting of the mandatory housing measures will be welcome news to bird keepers, scrupulous biosecurity remains the most critical form of defence to help keep your birds safe.”
Why does biosecurity help prevent diseases on farms?
Biosecurity outlines a set of measures that are used to prevent the spread of disease. It is important for farmers to implement biosecurity measures on their farm as it can help to reduce the risk of disease outbreaks, with the key principle of farm being that prevention is better than cure.
A biosecurity plan outlines a set of measures that reduce the risk of potential disease incursion in several ways:
Mitigating risks and protecting animals
A comprehensive plan reduces risk by using the latest technology and techniques to map your premise to build a picture of your farm’s layout. These included hard boundaries, fences, shed locations, pathways, as well as the ingress and egress points around the farm, that could allow disease to be carried onto the premises.
From this information a set of protocols are developed to incorporate biosecurity practices into the day-to-day running of your farm.
Planning helps keep your animals healthy and greatly reduces the risk of diseases entering your property. It helps farm workers manage their own risk and can make control and the eradication of disease easier. Planning can also reduce the cost of medicines and vet visits, improving the efficiency of your farm as well as protecting your neighbours and the surrounding countryside.
Anticipating potential outbreaks
A comprehensive biosecurity plan should also incorporate operational and contingency protocols which plan ahead by creating personalised outbreak simulations, so should an outbreak occur there is already a plan in place to deal with it. This includes depopulation requirements and the deep cleaning and disinfection measures that must take place following an outbreak.
Contingency planning deals with worst case scenarios, giving you a road map of how to get your business running again after an outbreak, greatly reducing operational downtime, financial loss and reputational damage. More importantly it gives peace of mind that you have done everything to protect your flocks and business.
Good record keeping and documentation
Part of a thorough biosecurity plan is good record keeping. This includes a complete log of people and vehicles entering and leaving the premises, a record of vaccinations, veterinary reports, the documentation of new animals entering your farm and records of where farm materials were sourced.
Encouraging individuals who enter your farm to partake in this record keeping will also make them more wary of where they have been and what they could introduce to your farm business. Strict protocols will influence those involved in the farming of your animals to follow the measures you have in place.
Should an outbreak occur, having these records in an easy to access format makes epidemiology tracing easier as well as allows APHA, and industry organisations like Livetec, to quickly assess what could have contributed to an outbreak, and means they can quickly mobilise to stop the disease from spreading any further.
Farm Health Guardian, a biosecurity management software introduced by Livetec allows for the immediate, digital tracking of movements on and off-farm for rapid contact tracing in the event of a disease outbreak.
Livetec biosecurity solutions
Livetec has been working with UK farmers for over a decade to design bespoke biosecurity plans that mitigate the risks of disease incursion and protect their farm businesses. Our team of experts use their years of experience and scientifically backed knowledge to develop comprehensive, easy to follow, unique biosecurity plans tailored to each farm.
Our biosecurity plans are recognised by government bodies like APHA and Defra and protect animals’ health and wellbeing, ensure operational continuity as well provide a secure knowledge that your farm is operating ethically and in compliance with UK legislation.
Contact Livetec to find out how our team of experts can help protect your farm here.