UME reps see better biosecurity awareness
As a grant project promoting diligent biosecurity on poultry farms wraps up in Maryland, Extension educators are seeing positive signs but added the education effort will continue.
In 2015, University of Maryland Extension was awarded a Special Needs Project Grant by USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture to enhance knowledge of avian influenza prevention and encourage biosecurity awareness and compliance.
The project came on the heels of a massive outbreak of avian influenza spanning 15 states with the loss of 48 million birds in the United States.
The Delmarva poultry industry was spared in the outbreak but showed the need for improved biosecurity should the disease threaten again.
The project launched a series of workshops over the past three years and the production of short and full length videos demonstrating step-by-step biosecurity procedures for various sectors of the poultry industry including commercial poultry personnel, growers and backyard flock owners.
Filmed on a poultry farm, the two to six-minute videos demonstrate proper personal biosecurity procedures for growers and how to make sure vehicles and visitors to farms don’t spread disease.
In addition, the video underscores the importance of cleaning and disinfecting equipment, tools and service vehicles before entering and leaving the poultry farm.
Other topics in the video include methods of protecting flocks from wild birds and proper disposal of dead birds.
The videos were also translated into Spanish and subtitled in Korean, Chinese and Vietnamese for non-English speaking growers.
Dr. Nathaniel Tablante, University of Maryland Extension poultry veterinarian and project director, said in an April interview with Poultry Health Today that weaving the biosecurity discussion into other aspects of poultry farming is more effective.
“Biosecurity is all part of that big picture anyway. So we try to incorporate it into our workshops now about something else,” he said.
“We’ve got to talk about biosecurity in a more positive way in a more interesting way, not dictating policy or guidelines to our clients.
“It’s fun to do if it’s incorporated in the bigger picture of poultry health.”
From surveys following the workshops and other poultry events, improved biosecurity was the top-cited benefit from attending University of Maryland Extension poultry programs at 74.51 percent.
For individual practices, more than 70 percent of respondents said they added signage and a sign-in log, limited farm access, had protective clothing available and implemented footbaths at each house entrance.
“We are seeing that people are making some big changes,” said Dr. John Moyle, University of Maryland Extension poultry specialist who was involved in the project with Tablante and Jenny Rhodes, Queen Anne’s County Extension agent. “What is interesting is you’re getting people’s attention.
“They’re changing their behavior and that’s what we’re interested in.”
Adding signage, which got the highest response at 85.7 percent, is an easy thing to do, Moyle said, but goes a long way in changing behaviors.
“If you see a sign, you’re going to read it,” he said.
Practices that saw a lower adoption percentage since the workshops began included closing end doors for wild bird exclusion, hand washing, removing bird habitat from around poultry houses and keeping a dedicated pair of shoes for each poultry house, each close to 50 percent.
Moyle said that shows there’s room for improvement but added many growers were already doing a lot of those procedures before the the grant project started.
In another survey question, 55 percent said they hadn’t changed their biosecurity plan as they felt they already had a good plan in place.
“We want people to know our farms are doing right,” Moyle said. “Are they perfect? No, but they’re getting better.”
Non-farmers who interact with poultry growers are also getting better, Moyle said.
Nearly 95 percent of ag professionals who were surveyed said they only visit farms when necessary and otherwise make appointments to meet at another location; 84 percent said they use protective clothing on farm visits and 71 percent said they keep biosecurity clothing with them for farm visits.
From the surveys, growers appear aware that biosecurity is an ongoing issue.
Pests and disease ranked second behind regulations when growers were asked what they consider the greatest challenges pertaining to poultry farming.
And while avian influenza poses the biggest threat to a poultry farm, added biosecurity has a better defense beyond one disease.
“It’s not just about A.I.,” Moyle said. “A.I. is what we all talk about but this works for all diseases.”
Some 92 percent of grower surveyed said they train employees, including family members, on biosecurity procedures.
Moyle said one practice they’ll continue to emphasize is the need for each farm to have a written biosecurity plan
“We really need to work on that,” he said. “You can say you have a plan, but is it a plan if it’s not written down?”
Moyle and Rhodes said though the grant funding ends this summer, promoting biosecurity on Delmarva won’t.
Signs are still available through county Extension offices and the videos and other materials are available preloaded on a computer flash drive.
“We’re going to keep doing this because it’s important for us,” Moyle said.
1-800-634-5021 410-822-3965 Fax- 410-822-5068
P.O. Box 2026 Easton, MD 21601-8925