From the editor: April 2016
By Kristy Nudds
By Kristy Nudds
Should a producer find him or herself facing avian influenza or another catastrophic disease event, Ontario turkey producer Bob McCauley has the following advice to share: “keep track of everything.”
McCauley manages the turkey farm that was the first to be infected with avian influenza (AI) in southwestern Ontario last spring. Speaking at a Poultry Industry Council (PIC) Producer Update in February, McCauley was candid about how stressful the experience of dealing with AI was, and the importance of keeping record of everyone he talked to, what they talked about and next steps. When under such stress, it’s not easy to keep track of who said what – and when your livelihood is at stake, you want to make sure everyone is held accountable and stay in control of your own operation.
Despite having robust biosecurity plans for poultry facilities in place, unfortunately avian influenza can still find its way into a barn (see comments from Jim Dean, CEO of Center Fresh Group, on page 37). While good biosecurity practices focus on keeping a pathogen such as AI out of a barn, since the AI outbreak in British Columbia in 2004, much work has been done in Canada to understand how to minimize its spread to other facilities once a pathogen does get into a barn. Just as McCauley wanted to keep track of what was going on at his farm during AI recovery, it’s crucial that industry track everything and everyone that had been on his farm in the days before his birds showed symptoms.
Service providers, suppliers and other vehicles moving from farm to farm pose a significant risk of disease spread. This has been looked at extensively and much work has been done to understand and mitigate this risk. At the same PIC Producer Update meeting in February, Tom Baker, incident commander of the Feather Board Command Centre (FBCC), said that connectedness through people, equipment and service providers caused avian influenza to spread rapidly in the U.S. last year, and was “much more significant than airborne transmission.”
But performing a traceback to determine which farms may be at risk from contact through a shared provider is not instantaneous. The Canadian poultry industry as a whole has gotten much better at reducing the time required to perform such a traceback. This can be seen in the reduced number of farms infected in B.C. in 2014 versus 2004, and the fact that AI was limited to three premises in Ontario in 2015.
While executive director of the PIC, Tim Nelson wanted to find a more immediate solution. After several years of working with a technology partner, Nelson, now CEO of the Livestock Research Innovation Corporation (LRIC), is seeing his vision become reality. The “Be Seen Be Safe” app (see full story on page 10) acts as a virtual logbook, recording the movement of who comes on and off a farm and logging the information in a central database. During an emergency, Be Seen Be Safe can quickly analyze visitor information obtained from an infected property and plot the movement of visitors to that property throughout its infectious period, where they came from and where they went in order to identify potentially infected secondary properties.
While the app is not meant to replace good biosecurity practices on-farm, it offers industry the potential to keep AI incidents rapidly contained so that, hopefully, disease incidents can be kept to one or two farms and the industry can get back to business sooner.