Monday, October 2, 2023

Biosecurity: Protecting our flocks to sustain the supply chain

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SILOAM SPRINGS, Ark. — Safeguarding animal health is paramount to any country’s economy and food supply. Livestock with a clean health status is the most important requirement a country must have to be competitive in the international market.

There are several emerging and re-emerging animal diseases of concern that affect the adequacy of the food supply for a growing world population and have huge implications for global trade and commerce. Unfortunately, zoonotic diseases including Avian Influenza reemerge causing high morbidity and mortality in poultry. In some cases, outbreaks of zoonotic disease can impact the supply chain and ultimately reduce the availability of food to consumers.

Some industries more than others still face challenges with diseases including Newcastle Disease (ND), Infectious Bursal Disease (IBD), Infectious Bronchitis (IBV), and Infectious Laryngotracheitis (ILT). These poultry diseases can cost the global industry millions of dollars every year. However, on a global level the real cost is actually incurred when there is a disruption in international availability of poultry meat, eggs and/or chicks.

At Cobb, we are committed to producing and providing a safe and secure supply of breeding stock to our customers around the world. Components of our biosecurity programs have been certified by independent agencies including the National Poultry Improvement Plan (NPIP under auspices of the USDA in the U.S.A.), The Poultry Health Scheme of The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA in the U.K.), the Food and Consumer Product Safety Authority (Netherlands), and the National Poultry Health Program of the Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock and Supply (PNSA of MAPA in Brazil). These organizations conduct regular auditing and monitoring of the health programs of our breeding operations.

Regular testing is a key to a biosecurity program that has protected our supply chain from disease outbreaks for decades.

Avian influenza

A prime example is our participation in the Avian Influenza Clean program of the National Poultry Improvement Plan (NPIP). We are certified as Avian Influenza Clean in this national plan and all flocks are tested for avian influenza every three weeks. As a certified participant, this program allows Cobb to meet the avian influenza import requirements for the majority of our trading partners.

As a global company that produces genetic stock for customers around the world, it is crucial to prevent interruptions to our supply chain. Cobb has pedigree, great grand-parent, grand-parent production facilities and hatcheries strategically located around the globe. We use a network of more than 60 distributors to ship our products. Furthermore, we have compartmentalized our operations in Brazil, the UK, and the USA, following the guidelines by the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE).

These measures ensure the security and availability of our products in the event of disease, outbreaks and other possible interruptions to our supply chain provided there is a bilateral agreement in which the receiving country recognizes the certified compartments in the exporting country.

Strict biosecurity programs are the foundation of our risk management strategy. Our biosecurity protocols exceed the requirements of most government programs so importing officials have a high degree of confidence in our products. Exceptional biosecurity allows us to distribute breeding stock to more than 120 countries. You can learn more about our biosecurity programs here .

An important part of the supply chain is the export process. Careful planning and documentation are fundamental to deliver a quality product to international customers without delays. Our team of export specialists follows strict biosecurity protocols and works carefully to meet the unique requirements of each country, including special paperwork and/or additional testing. To make the export process more efficient, we pioneered the use of an electronic health certification system for day-old poultry in coordination with the USDA. Cobb served as the first company to pilot this model in Canada and Guatemala. Since then, the program has expanded to include most countries around the world and uses partial to fully electronic processing.

There has been increased recognition of the importance of strict biosecurity practices, and every producer must focus on building and sustaining a biosecurity culture. Training farm and hatchery team members is a fundamental part of building the biosecurity culture as employees are known to be the most common source of disease transmission.

Chick delivery drivers also adhere to our biosecurity protocols allowing the delivery of product to customers in our domestic markets without the concern of disease. There must be a zero-tolerance policy in place for all team members to prevent direct contact or interaction with poultry outside the production facility. This is by far the most important principle of biosecurity.

In this integrated and dependent world, a strict biosecurity program is the solution to preventing economic and supply chain disasters. Upon realizing the dangers and risks of poultry diseases in commercial poultry production systems, producers need to understand the cost-benefit ratio of implementing and maintaining an effective biosecurity program. The costs of a biosecurity program are insignificant when faced with a total market crisis. Production losses and eradication dollars become irrelevant when compared to the greater impact that poultry diseases can have on global poultry supply.

Dr. Algis Martinez is a doctor of veterinary medicine, and has been a veterinary specialist with Cobb-Vantress since 2002. He is a board-certified veterinarian by the American College of Poultry Veterinarians, and a member of the American Association of Avian Pathologists, where he serves in several committees, including the enteric and respiratory diseases committees as well as the animal welfare committee. Martinez is also a member in good standing of the American Veterinary Medical Association. Currently, he provides external customer service worldwide as a member of the World Technical Support Team.

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