During the winter of 2019-2020, researchers from Wageningen University & Research, specifically from Wageningen Bioveterinary Research (WBVR), conducted a study to demonstrate the use of laser to prevent wild waterfowl visits in free-range poultry farms due to their potential transmission of avian flu.
Previously WBVR research group reported that mallards (flu high-risk species) visit laying hens on a free-range system exclusively between sunset and sunrise from November to February, representing a potential risk of avian flu transmission since wild birds are migrating. On the other hand, wild waterfowl such as geese and ducks increase the possible influenza transmission to free-range birds because poultry can get avian flu viruses through feces or contaminated water.
In the recent study, WBVR established that laser function is to frighten wild birds, then birds fly and stay away to avoid the laser again due to their memory of the experience.
The epidemiologist and project leader of this study, Armin Elbers, said: “Without the laser, several mallards came to visit the range between sunset and sunrise on a daily basis. In the range, they look for food and swim in puddles of water that are formed during the winter period by abundant rainfall. While swimming in the puddles, the ducks may defecate. During the day, the chickens in the outdoor area drink the same water, as we saw in the video camera images. In the cold winter period, the bird flu virus can survive in such water for a long time.”
There was a 99.7% of prevention using laser due to almost no wild ducks visits in the free-range, and a reduction of visits from other wild birds between sunrise to 10 am was observed. Elbers added that meanwhile, the laser was activated in the day, the appearance of pastures was ‘swept clean,’ and the geese were not in the area leading to fewer grass effects.
In conclusion, the results showed that using the laser in this research could greatly reduce the visit of these waterfowl to the free-range area and surroundings of poultry farms.
“The application of these lasers becomes a viable alternative for the prevention of introduction of avian influenza infections in poultry,” said Elbers.
In the future, Elbers added that “For free-range poultry farms located in high-risk avian flu areas, which had repeated introductions of avian flu virus in the past, we believe that a laser could be helpful as a preventive measure to keep wild birds away from the farm during the high-risk period (October to March). Poultry farms with strictly indoor accommodation have also been infected with avian influenza in the past due to their location near wetlands. Using a laser during the high-risk period could offer a solution to this problem too by keeping wild waterfowl away from the vicinity of the barn.”
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