Thursday, February 29, 2024

Poultry growers embrace biosecurity

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By Mike Giles

Special to Poultry Times

GAINESVILLE, Ga. — It goes without saying that a lot has been done to prepare for the threat of avian influenza.  Georgia and other poultry states have put a tremendous amount of effort into emergency response preparations working with our state and federal partners. Perhaps the most important work, however, has been in the area of prevention. There is no job more important than keeping avian influenza out of our poultry flocks in the first place through enhanced biosecurity.

But how do we know that the emphasis on biosecurity is taking hold and being implemented at the farm level? Have new habits been created through behavior changes? Assuming that the enhanced biosecurity is something that is sustained (and I believe that it will be), then I think ultimately we will see the results in very measurable ways. In addition to reducing the very real threat of avian influenza, it stands to reason that costly poultry diseases such as mycoplasmosis can be reduced through better and more consistent biosecurity practices . . . time will tell.

For now, I see evidence through anecdotes that poultry growers and companies are embracing the challenge in a positive way. These stories encourage me, and I would like to share a few of them with you.

A few weeks ago I spoke to a civic club in a poultry growing region of Georgia. I talked about the economic importance of poultry to the state along with an overview of the things the industry is doing to prepare for the threat of avian influenza. Afterwards, a man came up to me and said that he had been storing his boat on the farm of his son, a poultry grower. He said his son wouldn’t let him come on his farm to get his boat back! I think they worked out a way to safely make the transfer, but it illustrates how seriously this farmer was taking his responsibility to protect the health of his chickens.

I heard the story of another poultry grower whose parents enjoyed having backyard chickens. The problem is that they also enjoyed visiting the farm to see their grandchildren. The poultry grower gave an ultimatum — get rid of the backyard chickens or no more visits to see the grandchildren. I understand that the grandchildren won out.

I was told that a Good Samaritan poultry grower offered to help a stranded motorist, but then he found out that the car contained geese that were being transported across several states. The grower quickly backed off and made sure that his vehicle and clothing were disinfected before returning to his farm.

I have heard about poultry growers giving up tickets they had purchased to an event after learning that live chickens would be present. Several stories have been relayed to me about poultry growers stopping vehicles coming onto their farm to provide services when they did not think the proper biosecurity measures had been followed. In one case, a grower called a service provider to complain about their employees and vehicles not following biosecurity instructions. Now those vehicles are carrying disinfectant, and the service provider employees are following the protocols that are being asked of them.

Since the launch of the ALL IN or ALL GONE biosecurity education campaign, I have heard growers proudly say they are “ALL IN” on their farms. Ten other states have joined the campaign since then — visit www.ALLinALLgone.com for more information.

None of this comes as a surprise to me. It was evident during the many biosecurity education presentations that were held in Georgia that the threat of avian influenza had the growers’ absolute attention. I don’t think I ever attended any type of educational program where the audience paid closer attention or asked better questions.

Again, this should come as no surprise. Our industry has faced many challenges before, and there will be many more in the future. While this is certainly no time to sit back and rest, I am so proud of the way that poultry companies and growers, who are the front line of defense, have responded to this serious threat.

Mike Giles is president of the Georgia Poultry Federation with offices in Gainesville, Ga.

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