A new disease management tool
By Treena HeinFeatures Health
A new animal health reporting system called Farm Health Monitor will improve communication for early disease detection and better management of diseases.
Biosecurity and disease management on poultry farms across the world continues to improve due to new technologies, and will improve further once more Canadian technology hits the market.
In development as we speak is an app platform called Farm Health Monitor (FHM), from Ontario-based Farm Health Guardian (FHG). It’s an animal health reporting system that will improve communication between producers, vets and others for early disease detection and better management of diseases.
“FHM supports the early detection of disease events, which is critical to limiting the potential for spread within and between sites,” says veterinarian Dr. Krista Howden, senior scientific advisor at One Health Scientific Solutions in Alberta. “When combined with Farm Health Protect [FHG’s main platform], it’s also possible to predict the risk of spread and target at-risk sites for disease surveillance and control interventions.”
At the farm level, the FHM app enables poultry producers to digitally record animal observations by pen, batch or barn. This includes specifics and timing of symptoms and any treatments given. There are easy-to-use drop-down menus and appropriate fill-in fields, and farmers can also upload pictures and video of birds.
A set of health records for each flock are also constantly available to producers, as well as their veterinarians, nutritionists and others on their flock health teams. Instant notifications enable all team members to make the fastest and best decisions possible to prevent diseases from worsening.
And for veterinarians, instead of wasting precious disease management time travelling to a farm, the system enables them to use their time much more efficiently. That is, through seeing symptoms reported by a farmer, speaking to the farmer and so on, vets can give immediate guidance, request appropriate sample-taking and lab analysis, and much more closely monitor a flock health issue.
The FHP system can also integrate barn sensor data to provide a fuller picture of factors related to flock health, says FHG CEO Rob Hannam. He adds that when implemented across a network of farms or a sector, alerts and other messages can be shared more widely, and as mentioned by Howden, system information enables real-time sector disease surveillance and risk prediction in specific areas.
Farm Health Guardian
Meanwhile, FHG has updated its main platform, Farm Health Protect (FHP, formerly called Be Seen, Be Safe).
As many readers will recall, it’s a subscription-based system that offers farm visit tracking through an app, GPS beacons on vehicles and farm site geofencing. It offers the ability to immediately establish geographical control zones in case of disease outbreaks, send alerts, produce maps and more. And among other new features, FHP now integrates wind speed and direction, which may affect the spread of some diseases.
In Canada, FHP is already being used on over 500 farms, mostly on swine farms in Manitoba and Saskatchewan. Hannam reports that over half the hog farms in Manitoba are using the system.
“Obviously, the more users on a system such as this, the more complete the data will be and, therefore, the more effective will be its ability in strengthening biosecurity and stopping disease spread. The cost depends on the number of properties within a group or network of properties, but it can cost as little as $15 per month for one farm property using a digital farm visitor logbook.”
In 2022, a FHP pilot project was held in partnership with Ontario’s Feather Board Command Centre (FBCC) from January to August in the poultry-dense Niagara Region. Federal funding was provided for the project through the AgriAssurance Program under the Canadian Agricultural Partnership.
Hannam explains that 220 commercial farms took part, along with a group of service providers (hatcheries, live haul, feed companies and catching crews). “We focused on recording truck visits to the farms through battery-powered GPS devices in the delivery trucks and a geo-fencing system similar to those used for truck fleet management,” he reports.
There had been a demonstration planned for April 2022 of the various capabilities of the platform. However, the outbreaks of highly pathogenic avian influenza required the full focus on FBCC resources, says FBCC operational lead Maggy Watson and new executive director and veterinarian Dr. Harold Kloeze.
Hannam adds, though, that “our technology was not used during the AI outbreaks because none of the actual outbreaks were in the Niagara Region. Had any of the outbreaks had occurred there, FHP could have been deployed.”
In the end, FHG demonstrated the system during fall 2022 for FBCC staff and stakeholders. Watson says, “they showed us how an outbreak or disease alerts are placed on a map and then you can put a boundary around one or more of them and create an alert zone.
“Everyone in that alert zone or who had recently been in the alert zone is notified in order to contain the disease rapidly, all before an official government quarantine may be put in place. It showed us what we could have had in terms of managing the outbreaks in real time. It would offer us the ability to get alerts out faster.”
Hannam adds that the project clearly identified the fact that there are many nearby farms and overlapping truck routes that could inadvertently spread disease if proper biosecurity procedures are not followed.
“A major outcome was identifying the real need for better mapping and communication tools to deal with disease outbreaks and make sure farmers and others have accurate, up-to-date information sent through the FHP app or via email,” he notes.
“As a result, we’ve worked to develop of Farm Health FastMaps, which is a disease mapping system for organizations and governments involved in disease response. It allows the user to identify disease control zones in minutes and quickly send alert messages to stop the spread.”
Also, if Farm Health FastMaps can be used by a producer organization or regional government for an HPAI response, for example, a list of farm properties within a control zone can be quickly created from the confidential database, enabling quick communication with affected farms and stakeholders.
Wallenstein Feed & Supply in southern Ontario participated in the pilot project. Poultry Sales Representative Rick Kavanagh explains “we already had GPS on all our feed trucks, but not all our vehicles that go from poultry farm to poultry farm. It was impressive to see the tracking ability and there is definitely value to seeing traffic activity in an outbreak situation. You can prove where your vehicles went and when, and where they didn’t go. I would participate in another trial or rollout.”
Kavanagh concludes, “if this technology speeds up the lines of communication with all stakeholders in the poultry industry, it gets my approval.”
In the UK, there are over 200 commercial poultry farms testing FHP through a large on-farm biosecurity technology and service provider called Livetec Systems.
“FHP was implemented on the first farm of one of the six clients involved in August 2022 and when all of them were online, we started looking at movements and we’re starting to see some trends,” says Livetec commercial director Gordon Samet. “It’s been a tremendous asset, to be able to recommend ways to reduce farm traffic and therefore risk of disease spread. And it’s already changing individual behaviour – that’s the feedback we’re getting from our clients, which is impressive.”
Right now, Livetec is also working with FHG on how to add a new biosecurity protocol: confirmation that workers have changed their boots before barn entry.
Print this page