Biosecurity measures on Virginia poultry farms have been important over the past year due to an avian influenza outbreak that started in 2014 in the Pacific Northwest, Midwest and California.
Virginia’s largest agricultural organization, the Virginia Farm Bureau Federation, recently lifted heightened biosecurity measures that had been in place for 15 months for staff visiting poultry farms.
“Our employees were asked to not visit any poultry farms out of an abundance of precaution unless there was an urgent or emergency situation that required staff to be on the farm,” said Tony Banks, a VFBF commodity marketing specialist. “Our employees are not only conscious of farmers’ needs, but they also understand the serious threat that animal diseases like AI pose to our members’ livestock and poultry.
“In relaxing our policy, we returned to our standard policy for on-farm biosecurity—for employees to always adhere to biosecurity protocols in place at each farm. Further, we discourage employees from visiting more than one confined livestock or poultry farm within the same day.”
The AI outbreak affected more than 50.4 million birds in 212 commercial and 21 backyard flocks in 15 states, reaching as far east as Indiana. Estimates vary, but the U.S. Department of Agriculture and individual states spent about $900 million on disease response, and the outbreak is believed to have cost the U.S. economy $3.3 billion.
The USDA Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service offers a list of biosecurity tips to prevent disease and ensure poultry health:
- Isolate your birds from visitors and other birds.
- Prevent germs from spreading by cleaning shoes, tools, equipment, vehicles and cages.
- Avoid sharing tools and equipment.
- Watch for early signs to prevent the spread of disease.
- Report unusual signs of disease or unexpected deaths.
The USDA’s Biosecurity Guide is available at aphis.usda.gov/publications/animal_health/2014/pub_bioguide_poultry_bird.pdf.