Dr. Joel Cline, corporate veterinarian for Wayne Farms, says the basic principles of biosecurity in the poultry industry have not changed in decades.

But an awareness of the need to practice good biosecurity dates back even further than many would imagine – to the times of the Old Testament. Cline shared the related scripture while speaking during The Poultry Federation Poultry Symposium for Production & Processing on April 14.

In the New International Version (NIV) of the Bible, Leviticus 11: 39-40 reads: “If an animal that you are allowed to eat dies, anyone who touches its carcass will be unclean till evening. Anyone who eats some of its carcass must wash their clothes, and they will be unclean till evening. Anyone who picks up the carcass must wash their clothes, and they will be unclean till evening.”

“See, Moses knew about biosecurity. He knew that if there was a dead animal and you touched that animal, it could be carrying a disease that could be spread to other animals, that you should go home and you should change your clothes, and you should wash your hands and clean up … at least until the evening. So biosecurity has been around a long, long time. Moses even knew about biosecurity.”

With basic biosecurity principles being consistent over the years, Cline said he doesn’t think those principles will ever change. However, he said there are ways poultry producers can better apply those principles.

Find the right compromise

One way is to find the right compromise concerning biosecurity, Cline said. Poultry producers need to determine what risk level they want to take. Having zero birds is the lowest-risk option, while having absolutely no biosecurity program is the highest risk option. “There’s dangers on both ends of that spectrum,” Cline said.

While some risk must be taken simply by having chickens on your farm, a biosecurity program must be implemented. Risks can be further minimized by adopting the most strict of programs.

“If we wanted to have no disease, we could raise our chickens in a bubble. We can have them in individual cages, and we can have sterilized feed and we can have filtered air so no viruses or bacteria get to the chickens. We can’t stay in business that way,” he said.

We have to draw a line somewhere between high-risk and low-risk. Cline advises producers to determine where they want to draw that line, saying he leans closer to low-risk.

Opportunities for improvement

Cline says there are three opportunities for continuous improvement in biosecurity. Those include education, compliance and accountability.

Concerning education, Cline said managers, field representatives, technicians, growers and farm laborers all need to be educated not only about biosecurity principles, but about the particular biosecurity program being applied to the particular farm.

Compliance is a matter of doing the right thing. “If they’re not doing the right thing, its either a lack of knowledge and they don’t know what the right thing is … or it’s a lack of implementation. They know what the right thing to do is, and they just won’t do it, and that’s a problem with compliance,” Cline said.

And accountability is wanting to do the right thing. Cline said we should want our operations to include  people who will do the right thing, and do it the right way, every time, even when nobody’s looking. If the chickens are sick because we have a lax biosecurity program and there is no accountability, those chickens aren’t going to grow or perform like they should, he said.