Biosecurity on Australian commercial layer and meat chicken farms

PLoS ONE - Scott, A.B, Singh, M, Groves, P, Hernandez-Jover, M, Barnes, B, Glass, K, Moloney, B, Black, A, Toribio J.A.

Type: Research Paper
Knowledge level: Advanced

Farm Table says:

An understanding as to why it is important to both educate yourselves or workers on biosecurity practices, but also raising awareness that there needs to be a regulatory body on each farm.

Biosecurity practices on Australian commercial layer and meat chicken farms: Performance and perceptions of farmers. 

What is the problem?

There have been several outbreaks of severe diseases in the Australian poultry industry, one of them being Avian Influenza (AI). A virus that if spread around enough, would close the Australian market of animal products internationally.

With concerns over new versions of the virus forming, researchers from multiple universities, governmental departments and primary industry experts wrote this article aiming to predict the likelihood of an AI virus introduction and spread between Australian commercial chicken farms.

What did research involve?

Research surveyed both commercial lay farms: caged (9), barn (9) and free range (25). And commercial meat farms: barn (15) and free range (15).

This survey included a questionnaire consisting of:

  • General Information: water source and use, poultry health, range type, farmer observations of wild birds and animals.
  • Biosecurity: practices performed, importance to the farmer of specific biosecurity practices (rated 1-5), likelihood of future AI outbreaks, communication networks and information sources.

Key findings

Compliance in biosecurity practices was partially due to current ownership of the farm. Private ownership amongst many lay farms led to less consistent compliance, therefore a lack of an on-site governing body is recognised as a threat to biosecurity.

However, this does not account for all the non-compliance. A general lack of education surrounding pathogens and/or contamination, such as using the same equipment across multiple sheds without sterilisation, pigs and chickens sharing space or having chickens of different ages in the same shed, led to higher risk of the virus spreading.

Some farmers complying with a practice (i.e. bird proofed sheds) then viewed that same practice as less important (because they had temporarily decreased the potential for spread). This could lead to misconceptions as to the importance of continuously following through with these practices.

Final Comment

Although famers are not always able to govern all on farm practices, there still seems to be misconceptions regarding biosecurity. A general education of pathogens, through workshops and information sessions, will benefit these farmers a great deal.

This paper was summarised by Jeremy Murphy (Agricultural Science Student – La Trobe University) and reviewed by Nickala Best (PhD Student (La Trobe University). Learn more about Jeremy and Nickala here.

2018 - Australia - PLoS ONE - Scott, A.B, Singh, M, Groves, P, Hernandez-Jover, M, Barnes, B, Glass, K, Moloney, B, Black, A, Toribio J.A.
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