We had two excellent speakers cover the topic of biosecurity in upland game bird farms at our International Pheasant Seminar in March. Abby Neu Schuft agreed to provide some of the information used in her presentation to share with our readers.
Abby Neu Schuft is a poultry educator from the University of Minnesota Extension in Willmar, Minnesota, with a Master’s degree in Animal Science. She teamed up with Dr. Dale Lauer for the biosecurity presentation. Dr. Lauer is a veterinarian and assistant director at the Minnesota Board of Animal Health. Ms. Schuft is currently working toward a PH.D. in Animal Science and expects to complete the program from the University of Minnesota in 2021.
Abby was very adamant that everyone must pay attention to the most severe threat to any upland game bird farm-Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza (HPAI). Upland game birds (pheasants, bobwhite quail, and chukar partridges) can become infected with HPAI. Symptoms of the disease include neurological signs like twisted necks or difficulty walking. They may also have watery diarrhea, decreased egg production or suddenly die with no signs of illness.
Some of the procedures followed at MacFarlane Pheasants to protect our game birds include the following steps:
1. All crew members that peep and move out young pheasants wear cloth uniforms.
2. Our farm shoes are designated (they never leave the farm).
3. There are disinfectant trays at every entrance to the barns, office, and break rooms.
4. We have designated staff who move deceased birds to the composter.
5. All equipment is washed and disinfected regularly.
6. Tires on vehicles are sprayed off before vehicles enter all farm locations.
7. All new employees are trained in biosecurity as they get hired.
8. All current employees are refreshed once a year on all biosecurity protocols.
Abby also reminds us not to share equipment such as lawnmowers or other yard maintenance tools or employees with other commercial operations. If you rent this type of equipment or hire lawn mowing services, you may want to discontinue it to avoid spreading disease. The social distancing we are all doing for the current Covid 19 outbreaks is beneficial to help prevent the spread of the HPAI virus.
Lastly, Abby shared that avian industries came together to incorporate minimum biosecurity management principles into the National Poultry Improvement Plan (NPIP), including a biennial audit. Commercial operations need to have an NPIP plan audit every-other-year to be eligible for indemnity should the US have another HPAI event. No matter how big your operation is, it is in your best interest to maintain a site-specific biosecurity plan.
The United States is said to have the strongest Avian Influenza surveillance program in the world, according to foodsafetynews.com. Let’s keep it that way!