General Producer Guide - National Avian On-Farm Biosecurity Standard
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Who is this document for?

This General Producer Guide has been developed as an information resource for the National Avian On-Farm Biosecurity Standard to assist poultry producers with the development of biosecurity plans for their farming operations. Biosecurity planning and implementation reduces the risk of infectious disease transfer within and among poultry flocks. Enhancing your farm's biosecurity protects both individual and industry-wide economic interests. Further, it reduces the risk to public health that may result from certain poultry diseases.

The General Producer Guide and the National Avian On-Farm Biosecurity Standard form the basis of a comprehensive program designed to provide applicable guidance for owners or managers across all the poultry sectors in Canada. This Guide has been developed as a tool for all people and businesses that handle and keep poultry, including large scale supply-managed producers, backyard flock owners, and other domestic bird keepers. It provides guidance to producers on how to achieve the Target Outcomes of the National Avian On-Farm Biosecurity Standard.

The Standard and the associated Producer Guide are designed both to support the development of farm-specific biosecurity protocols for sectors that do not participate in a provincial association or On-Farm Food Safety (OFFS) program - such as the non-regulated commercial and non-commercial sectors - and to complement and enhance existing on-farm programs. The OFFS programs, developed by industry, formally address many elements of biosecurity and will be the primary avenue for implementation, where applicable.

This Guide is based on clear, scientifically justified principles. It details a range of measures that could be implemented to prevent disease-causing agents from entering or leaving a premises that houses poultry.

The importance of biosecurity

There is no formal definition for the word "biosecurity", but it has become the accepted term used to describe the measures needed to protect against the introduction and spread of diseases.

It is in the best interest of poultry keepers to ensure that they are aware of the risks and that they implement procedures to limit the chances of disease developing or spreading. When a bird is infected with a pathogenic organism, there may or may not be obvious signs of clinical disease. Nevertheless, this pathogen can be reproduced in the bird's body, which then sheds the organism into the environment through body excretions, including feces, urates from the kidneys, and aerosols from the respiratory system. The organisms contained in these excretions contaminate the surfaces in the surrounding environment, which then carry the infection to the next bird. If another bird becomes infected and the pathogens are in sufficient quantity to overcome a susceptible bird's immune system, the bird becomes infected and the cycle continues. As the pathogenic organism passes through more and more birds, its numbers in the environment multiply rapidly.

Additionally, pathogenic organisms can change over time to become more or less capable of causing disease. Circulating unchecked within a flock or between flocks of different generations, organisms have greater opportunity to undergo genetic alterations, and thus potentially cause more significant disease in poultry or other animal species, including humans.

Because pathogenic organisms are microscopic, they are invisible to the naked eye. Despite this, they can be found in large numbers in visible material, such as dust, water droplets suspended in the air, and fecal contamination. A dust particle can contain an infective dose. In fact, such a small amount of contaminated material may be hidden on equipment, clothing, footwear, or even hands, allowing the disease to be carried from one flock to another.

Past disease outbreaks, both in Canada and overseas, clearly demonstrate the serious impact that avian diseases can have on business, individual livelihoods, and local communities. The impact may range from the destruction of tens of thousands of birds, to the cancellation of shows or sporting events. The period during which emergency controls are in place may vary depending on how rapidly a disease can be successfully controlled.

Some diseases, known as zoonoses, can infect both poultry and humans. Good biosecurity is therefore an important element in preventing human illnesses.

Those who keep poultry must share responsibility for protecting their business or hobby by reducing the risks associated with the spread of diseases.

Practising good biosecurity has clear benefits as follows:

  • healthy birds
  • minimized potential for significant costs and losses in revenue
  • protection of human health
  • unrestricted movement of birds
  • protection of other industries, such as feed suppliers, and
  • protecting export markets

The use of this document

The General Producer Guide has been organized to follow the organization of the Standard document. It is divided into three sections (the same as in the Standard), representing the foundations of a smoothly operating biosecurity system:

  1. Access Management
  2. Animal Management
  3. Operational Management

In each section, each Target Outcome of the Standard is followed by current information on a variety of biosecurity-related practices as examples of the measures that producers can implement to meet the target outcome. The Guide demonstrates the flexibility required for a variable and complex poultry industry. It is not a full and complete listing of all examples that can be used to meet the Target Outcomes. Many examples relate to large commercial-scale industry, but also apply to other sectors. Optimal or highly effective biosecurity measures are provided in text boxes labelled "Ideally". They represent an ideal for those producers who wish to implement more rigorous biosecurity measures. Other guides, with more sector-specific producer guidance, may be developed in the future.

Biosecurity is best achieved when all of the foundations and their components are in place and are being managed properly. Weak building blocks or poorly implemented biosecurity measures provide a route by which disease might enter the flock or remain undetected within the flock.

All keepers of poultry should focus on achieving a level of control in every component on their property. For those new to the concept of biosecurity, those with limited resources or where it is not practical or applicable to fully achieve all target outcomes, the Guide provides examples of measures to take to mitigate the risks on a day-to-day basis.

A Glossary at the end of the document provides definitions of terms used. There are also a number of annexes, one of which is a self-audit checklist. This checklist can be used to quickly record the Target Outcomes that are being effectively controlled and those that need further action on your premises.

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