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National Avian On-Farm Biosecurity Standard (second edition)
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Who is this document for

The National Avian On-Farm Biosecurity Standard forms the basis of a comprehensive voluntary program designed to provide applicable guidance for owners or managers of all poultry production types in Canada. It has been developed as a tool for all people and businesses handling and keeping poultry, including large-scale supply-managed producers, backyard flock owners and other domestic bird keepers.

This On-Farm Biosecurity Standard is supplemented by a General Producer Guide that provides guidance to producers on how the Target Outcomes may be achieved.

The Standard and associated Producer Guide are designed to support poultry producers in the development of farm-specific biosecurity plans that do not already participate in a provincial association or On-Farm Food Safety (OFFS) program (such as the non- regulated commercial and non-commercial poultry industry). They have also been designed to be complementary with, and enhance, existing On-Farm Programs.

The OFFS programs developed by industry formally address many of the elements of biosecurity and will be the primary avenue for implementation where OFFS programs exist.

This program is based on clear, scientifically justified principles. It details a range of measures intended to prevent disease-causing agents from entering or leaving a premises housing poultry.

Product on the Canadian market originates from both domestic and imported suppliers. Regardless of the source, the same standards should, ideally, apply to the production of all products being sold in Canada.

Why is biosecurity important

There is no standard definition of the word Biosecurity, but it has become the accepted term used to describe the measures needed to protect against the introduction and spread of diseases.

It is in every poultry keeper's best interest to ensure that they are aware of the risks and do what they can to limit the chances of disease developing or spreading.

Birds that are infected with a pathogen may or may not show clinical signs of disease. However infected birds can shed the organism (through their feces, through aerosols, urates and other bodily fluids) into the environment. If disease is left unchecked, other birds can become infected and the organism can accumulate in the environment.

Chronically infected birds/flocks provide an opportunity for the organism to replicate and in some cases undergo genetic changes. These changes may make the organism less or more likely to cause disease in birds, other animals and humans.

Because pathogenic organisms are microscopic, they are not visible to the naked eye. Despite this, they can be found in large numbers in visible material such as: dust, water droplets suspended in the air, and fecal contamination. An infective dose of pathogenic organisms can be contained in a particle of dust. Such a small amount of contaminated material can be hidden on equipment, clothing, footwear, or hands, allowing the disease to be carried from one flock to another.

Disease outbreaks both in Canada and overseas clearly demonstrate the serious impact that avian diseases can have on business, individual livelihoods and local communities. The impact may range from the destruction of tens of thousands of poultry and multi-million dollar losses, to the cancellation of poultry shows and temporary restrictions on the movements of animals, products and by-products. The period during which emergency controls are in place may vary depending on how rapidly a disease can be successfully controlled.

Some diseases, known as zoonoses, (for example those caused by organisms such as Salmonella) can infect both poultry and humans. Good biosecurity is therefore an important element in the prevention of human illnesses.

Everybody who keeps poultry must share responsibility for protecting their business or hobby by reducing the risks associated with the spread of diseases.

An effective biosecurity program is based on the understanding and the vigorous application of the adopted measures to ensure exclusion (preventing introduction of the disease) and containment (when introduced, preventing disease from spreading).When a component of the program has a weakness, or where biosecurity measures are not fully implemented, it provides a route by which disease might enter the flock or remain undetected within the flock.

The clear benefits from practicing good biosecurity include the following:

  • having healthy poultry
  • minimizing the potential for significant costs and losses in revenue
  • protecting human health
  • protecting the health of wild birds by containing poultry diseases that might affect them
  • protecting your ability to move poultry and poultry products without restriction
  • protecting other industries such as feed suppliers
  • protecting export markets

Development of this document

The Avian Biosecurity Advisory Committee (ABAC) was created with a membership of representatives from all potential users of this document. The committee identified areas of practical effective controls using an objective, impartial science-based approach.

A technical sub-committee derived six main principles and associated recommendations for biosecurity measures. (See Annex A.)

These principles:

  • focus on prevention of avian influenza and other disease spread through respiratory transmission (other types of disease transmission were also included within the review)
  • address gaps in existing On-Farm Food Safety systems
  • are based on scientific analysis of efficacy
  • have a high level of cost benefit return to encourage compliance
  • are applicable to any level of poultry production
  • are readily auditable

Utilizing a science-based risk and cost/benefit analysis, background work for this standard identified and prioritized those biosecurity interventions with the greatest impact on reduction of risk of spread of contagious disease.

How should this document be used

With such a broad target audience not all of these principles will be applicable or practical for every situation. Keeping this in mind, the National Avian On-Farm Biosecurity Standard has been organized into three sections representing the foundations of a smoothly operating biosecurity system. These are defined as:

  • Access Management
  • Animal Management
  • Operational Management

Each of the three foundation sections is further divided into subsections and Target Outcomes.

Each Target Outcome represents a goal that all keepers of poultry, regardless of the size of their flock, should try to implement to protect their flocks from introduction and spread of avian diseases.

The National Avian On-Farm Biosecurity Standard is the main document. Each section is summarized, listing the Target Outcomes with a brief explanatory text. It is supported by a second document, the General Producer Guide to the National Avian On-Farm Biosecurity Standard.

The General Producer Guide has been developed, with significant contributions from representatives of the different poultry production types, as an information resource to assist poultry producers when developing biosecurity plans for their farming operations. It demonstrates the flexibility required for a variable and complex poultry industry. To that end, the General Producer Guide is not a full and complete listing of all examples that can be used to meet the Target Outcomes. Other "Guide" documents with more production type-specific producer guidance can be developed in the future.

Every keeper of poultry should focus on achieving a level of control in each of the components on their property. However, for those who are new to the concept of biosecurity, those with limited resources, or where it is not practical or applicable to fully achieve each of the target outcomes, the guideline document will provide a set of examples of measures that can be taken to meet the Target Outcomes.

Near the beginning of the document, there is a Glossary providing definitions of certain terms used within the text.

At the end of the document is the original document developed by ABAC, "Main Principles and Associated Recommendations," which has been used as the basis for this standard.

A self-evaluation checklist is also included which can be used to quickly record the Target Outcomes being effectively controlled and those that need further action.

Biosecurity: a cycle of activities

The implementation of biosecurity principles on a farm or facility can be viewed as a cycle of activities which includes:

  • assessing the biosecurity risks
  • developing a plan that addresses the risks
  • implementing biosecurity measures and procedures
  • monitoring flock health, keeping records of illnesses and treatments, and gathering disease and pest information to evaluate the plan and identify new risks
  • reassessing the risks and responses on an on-going basis to ensure continuous improvement
Figure 1: Cycle of biosecurity activities
Description of this image follows.
Description of Figure 1 – Cycle of biosecurity activities

Figure 1 is an illustration of the cycle of activities that should be completed to develop and implement a biosecurity plan. The cycle of biosecurity activities has four items in the centre with arrows pointing between them in clockwise direction. The first item at the top of the cycle is Assess. Moving clockwise, the second item is Plan, the third item is Implement and the fourth item is Monitor. There is a text box by each of these items in the cycle (four in total). Above the word Assess there is a box with the following text: Identify and evaluate on an on-going basis the risks posed by diseases and pests that are a threat to your farm or facility. To the right of the word Plan there is a box with the following text inside: Develop a written biosecurity plan to address the risks – this allows for the regular review and update, facilitates continuous improvement within the farm or facility, and forms the basis for training. Below the word Implement is a text box with the following text inside: Implement the biosecurity measures that were identified in the plan to address the disease and pest risks. To the left of the word Monitor is a text box with the following text: Develop and implement a surveillance program for ongoing monitoring of disease to evaluate the plan and the early detection and identification of disease.

Assess: The risks posed by the introduction of pests and diseases that threaten flock health on your farm are identified and evaluated in consideration of the components of a biosecurity plan. The identification and evaluation of risks will allow for current biosecurity issues within a farm to be addressed.

Plan and implement: A written on-farm or facility biosecurity plan is highly recommended, regardless of the size or type of facility. A written plan allows for regular review and update, facilitates implementation and continuous improvement within the operation, and forms the base for training.

Monitor and reassess: It is important that the design, effectiveness and implementation of a biosecurity plan be assessed not only on a routine basis but also when changes in farm practices or biosecurity issues occur. Production practices should be reviewed frequently to ensure that implemented measures are effective in relation to pest and disease prevention and control.

Developing your farm biosecurity plan

Developing a farm biosecurity plan involves achieving the right balance between disease risk and prevention. Your biosecurity plan will be unique to address the specific risks to your farm and production activities. Work with your veterinarian and industry experts on developing a plan.

Step 1: Prepare a diagram of the farm

Create a detailed farm diagram and identify potential pathways for disease and pest transmission from people, equipment, vehicles, and wildlife that can transmit disease.

Step 2: Identify the risks

Identify the poultry diseases that are concerns and how they are transmitted. Consider:

  • diseases that have previously occurred on the property, those present in the local poultry population, and endemic to the region
  • the health of poultry flocks from which new or replacement poultry are sourced
  • diseases present in the wild bird population including both resident and migratory birds

Step 3: Review management practices and complete the self-assessment tool in the Producer Guide

Many poultry management practices pose some degree of biosecurity risk. Identify your daily care and management practices and any less frequent activities (for example vaccination and repair services) that might result in the transmission of pathogens. Review your farm diagram – does your farm design and layout and your management practices affect your ability to manage disease risks?

Complete the biosecurity self-assessment provided in the biosecurity guide. Identify areas where biosecurity practices are being effectively managed and those where improvements can be made.

Step 4: Identify biosecurity goals and best practices

Using the biosecurity standard and guide, identify biosecurity goals and best practices that can be implemented to address the biosecurity gaps.

Step 5: Develop an implementation strategy

While all biosecurity risks need to be addressed, some will be more critical than others. Prioritize the biosecurity tasks and establish a timeline for their completion.

Step 6: Review the effectiveness of the biosecurity plan and continuous improvement

The effectiveness of the biosecurity plan is measured by the adoption of its biosecurity practices, their integration into daily routines and the impact to the health status of flock. When necessary, design and implement improvements to the biosecurity plan.

Principles of disease transmission

Understanding the basis of infectious disease is necessary for their prevention and control. Infectious diseases in poultry result from a complex interaction of three factors referred to as the disease triad:

  • an animal that is susceptible to disease (the host)
  • a pathogen such as a bacterium, virus, fungus or parasite capable of causing disease (the agent)
  • an opportunity for the host and agent to come into contact (the environment)
Figure 2: The disease triad
Description of this image follows.
Description of Figure 2 – The disease triad

This diagram illustrates the relationship between a bird (the host), a pathogen (the agent), and the environment. Disease may occur when a susceptible animal, a pathogen, and an environment favourable for disease development are present and there is sufficient time for exposure and then multiplication of the agent in the animal. There are many factors that influence whether disease will occur including the health of the animal, adequate nutrition, external stresses, the number of pathogens present and the ability of the pathogen to cause disease. No one element is responsible for the expression of the disease. It is the interaction of the 3 elements (the presence of a pathogen, a susceptible host and the environmental conditions) that determine whether it tips the scale to favour the expression of a disease.

Figure 3: Tipping point for disease
Description of this image follows.
Description of Figure 3 – Tipping point for disease

 The image has both a left and a right margin. Below the left margin is a title. The text reads: Impact on host by stressors (summation of agent and environment). To the left of the left margin is an arrow, that gets wider as it runs from the top to the point at the bottom. On the left margin is a scale from. From top to bottom the text reads: Negligible, Low, Medium, High.

Below the right margin is a title. The text reads: When disease is expressed. On the right margin is a scale. The text reads from top to bottom: Diseased, Healthy, Diseased is further divided, from top to bottom as Clinical Disease, Subclinical Disease. These are indicated by three vertical co-linear coloured lines: red (clinical disease, top), yellow (sub-clinical disease, bottom) and green (healthy, bottom).

In the centre of the image is a triangle pointed upwards serving as a fulcrum on which is balanced a double ended red dotted arrow running from bottom left margin (High) to top right (Clinical Disease).

The cumulative impact of potential stressors (such as exposure to pathogens, changes in social structure, inadequate nutrition, poor ventilation, and significant light and temperature changes) on poultry over a period of time can overwhelm their ability to resist infection resulting in disease. The disease may be sub-clinical (poultry are infected yet appear healthy) or clinical (poultry are infected and appear sick) depending on the degree of the impact of the stressors, characteristics of the disease agent and the health status of poultry prior to exposure.

Three broad approaches to prevent and control infectious diseases include:

  • decreasing exposure of animals to pathogens: Preventing contact between animals and pathogens can prevent infection and disease from occurring. If exposure does occur, there must be a sufficient number of viable organisms (an infectious dose) that can bypass the animal's defence systems and then multiply to cause disease. Many of the biosecurity practices focus on reducing exposure, including separating healthy animals from animals that are sick or of undetermined health, minimizing contact with contaminated equipment, managing insects and pests that may transmit pathogens and cleaning and disinfecting equipment.
  • decreasing susceptibility of animals to disease: There are factors that can be managed to reduce susceptibility to disease including: providing proper nutrition, managing underlying disease, reducing stress, implementing effective parasite control, and the appropriate use of antibiotics and other medications. There are other factors that affect an animal's susceptibility to disease that cannot be influenced to a significant degree such as age and genetics.
  • increasing resistance to disease: Vaccination is the primary method used to improve resistance to certain, specific infectious diseases.
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