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Breeders drink from a water supply laced with biofilm.
on June 9, 2009

Biofilm in watering systems

The presence of biofilm in the watering system of flocks represents a potential disease risk that is frequently ignored by egg producers.

Bacteria which are present in well water attach to suspended organic particles and become deposited on piping, creating a nutrient rich biofilm. This coating attracts additional bacteria and may rapidly become an active multispecies colony frequently incorporating disease causing organisms (pathogens).

Bacteria survive and multiply in the biofilm using nutrients in the water. Although closed watering systems are designed to promote the health of flocks, the presence of biofilm may contribute to enteritis and outbreaks of peritonitis caused by avian pathogenic E. coli (APEC). Biofilm can also affect the integrity of nipple drinkers resulting in leakage. This, in turn, contributes to release of ammonia from the pits of high rise houses and contributes to the persistence and proliferation of flies and salmonella infection.

Producers commonly proportion chlorine in the form of sodium hypochlorite solution or chlorine gas into drinking systems to kill bacteria in water. Although this procedure will reduce the levels of suspended bacteria in water it won't dislodge biofilm in piping.

Cleaning, flushing are required

To prevent accumulation of biofilm regular cleaning of piping followed by flushing is required. Hydrogen peroxide-based cleaners should be introduced into water lines. The oxidation action of this compound dislodges accumulations of bacteria, preparing the system for flushing. 

Hydrogen peroxide decomposes into water and oxygen and is therefore not an environmental hazard.

When used at recommended rates, commercial cleaning solutions will not affect the taste of the water or have any detrimental effect on flocks.

A regular schedule of weekly flushing at a pressure of 20-40psi will maintain the integrity of nipples and prevent the accumulation of biofilm.

Follow these flushing recommendations to minimize biofilm:

  • Flush following administration of medication or vitamin supplements which contain carriers promoting deposition of a biofilm.
  • Flush for one minute for every 100 feet of pipe length.
  • Water lines should be flushed weekly.
0906EIziggity3
A look at biofilm under a microscope after having been stained.
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