Helen Wojcinski

Diamond V

Content available in: Español (Spanish) Português (Portuguese (Brazil))

What is critical about any biosecurity program is that you really have to commit to applying it on your farm and making sure it is consistently practiced by everyone in the company without exception.

In many cases, when everything is said and done, more is said than is actually done. Before you start to think that this article is about what your “neighbor” should be doing, and not you, please read on… Although this article is not about environmental management, it is important to remember that when turkeys are stressed or their natural defenses are endangered by exposure to ammonia, dust or unhealthy water, it is easier for a smaller number of bacteria to affect the health and performance of our flocks.

When there are many farms in the same area, it is important that everyone participate with similar programs as a cooperative effort to reduce the risk of disease.

Some diseases are more farm-specific, such as E. Coli or Bordetella, and do not spread easily from one farm to another, while others such as Avian Influenza, Newcastle and mycoplasmas spread easily from one infected farm to another and require the efforts of all contaminated farms to eliminate these agents.

The disease results from the interaction between birds, the pathogen (bacteria, viruses, fungi) and the environment.

1.- Obtain an exact diagnosis of the disease

In order to know the best way to eliminate a disease, we have to know which agent or agents were involved. Is it only E. coli that caused the problem or was the flock also exposed to Bordetella or Newcastle previously? If we want to get rid of E. coli problems we also have to tackle other pathogens that open the door to E. coli. Some pathogens have unique strengths and susceptibilities. Knowing what the agent is capable of will put you in a better position to focus efforts to remove it from the farm.


Clostridia that causes dermatitis / cellulite can form spores making them virtually indestructible, while E. coli and Salmonella are sensitive to most contact disinfectants.


In the case of Avian cholera, the main sources are rodents or other four-legged pests, while for Bordetella the focus would be on the water system.

2.- When a disease outbreak occurs, the current biosecurity program should be reviewed to ensure that it is being followed correctly

This means that you must have a written biosecurity program that includes standard operating procedures (SOPs) for anything and anyone crossing the boundaries from the dirty area to the clean side of the farm’s facilities, in addition to having specifications for the sanitary program. Ensuring that procedures are performed correctly can mean the difference between successful removal of a pathogen and failure. Many times it is not what was done, but how it was done. Many excellent programs fail because they were not applied correctly.


The lack of efficiency in cleaning and disinfecting the water system in the house may be because the wrong product was used, or the wrong concentration, or was implemented at the wrong time. If the program is followed correctly but the problems with the disease continue, it means that the program has to change. Pathogens continue to adapt, evolve, and become more resistant, which means that our programs to eliminate them must do the same.

3.- Every time the flocks leave the farm, there is a brief opportunity to eliminate pathogens

It is important to maximize the effective sanitary rest time, which corresponds to the number of days that a clean and disinfected house remains empty.

The program may need to be customized for a specific pathogen, but in general the following measures should be implemented:

If you are doing a complete general cleaning, remove the used litter away from the farm. Accumulating it within the perimeter of the farm favors the appearance of the litter beetle, and contaminated water can enter the farm.

Remove ALL organic material (dust, trash, feathers). If you are wondering if the house is clean enough, chances are it is not … If you have had a sanitation issue on your farm, invite new and fresher eyes to check that the facility is perfectly clean before applying the disinfectant.

Do not forget to clean and disinfect the entrance areas to the buildings and, when the weather permits, the feed silos.

Clean and disinfect water pipes twice. Once before removing the litter, and a second time before housing the new flock. Despite the fact that the animals are no longer in the house, the bacteria in the water pipes continue to multiply.

Remember: it is a matter of numbers of bacteria.

biosecurity-turkeys Once the house has been cleaned and disinfected, treat it as a biosecure area and do not re-contaminate it before or during the bird placement.

For certain diseases, older birds on the same farm may be the reservoir for the pathogen. This is true for many of the intestinal viruses like Salmonella and Bordetella.

The current turkey rearing system allowed to eliminate the coronavirus and the necrotic syndrome in the poulter (PEMS).

4.- Control your biosecurity and health programs

Monitoring will allow you to know that the procedures you have applied are effective, instead of just thinking that they are. Depending on the specific challenge and whether it is a recurring problem on the farm, the consideration to be given to monitoring is as follows:

  • Sampling of water pipes instead of obtaining water samples. It allows to detect higher levels of bacteria.
  • Check daily the water sanitation systems at the end of the pipe. Whatever product or system is being used, make sure your goals are being achieved.
  • Sampling of the houses. This can be very important especially in rearing houses, as very young birds are more susceptible to even modest challenges.
  • Beetle populations. Make sure that the product and method you are using are effective. Read the label. Beetles can develop resistance. If necessary, consider spot treatment with a product approved for use even with birds inside the house.
  • Bait stations. An empty bait station is a waste. Just because there is no cholera on the farm does not mean that rodent control is adequate.
  • The routine serology of your flocks will indicate if they are being challenged and will help verify the effectiveness of your vaccination program.

5.-Review all monitoring results on a regular basis regarding the performance of your flock, and make any necessary changes to achieve your goals

Remember, if you do not look, you will not find, and you may miss the opportunity to take corrective action. Don’t let a pathogen tell you if your programs are optimal or not.

Routine serology will help verify the effectiveness of your vaccination program

Although this article focuses on how to get rid of pathogens once they’re settled on your farm, you should always review how they got to the farm in the first place. Otherwise a lot of time and resources will be spent on eliminating the disease, only for it to reappear again later on.




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