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The Watchword for B.C.’s Industry

The Watchword for B.C.’s Poultry Industry


November 27, 2008
By he B.C. Poultry Industry Advisory & Management Committee

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The B.C. Poultry Association is meeting the challenge of biosecurity head on

  
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A secure barrier that restricts vehicle entry and approved biosecurity signage that must be clearly displayed at all primary and secondary accesses are just the start for enhanced biosecurity in BC.


 

In spring and summer of 2004, an outbreak of highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) occurred in British Columbia’s Fraser Valley, resulting in a great economic loss to the local poultry industry. To contain and eradicate the virus, 410 commercial farms and 553 backyard flocks were depopulated and millions of birds were destroyed. The true economic cost is unknown but is estimated to be close to $400 million. Every aspect of the industry was affected. It was months before poultry farmers in the Fraser Valley returned to operating at pre-outbreak levels.

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The B.C. poultry industry was hit hard. The incident provided an immediate opportunity to question how such an outbreak could have happened and find ways to keep it from happening again. The B.C. Poultry Association (BCPA) was determined to confront the challenge head on. With federal and provincial financial support through the Investment Agriculture Foundation of B.C., the BCPA took on a leadership role to develop a three-part response predicated on enhanced biosecurity protocols, an emergency response management plan, and a risk management strategy. All of these initiatives were developed using a team approach, with industry and federal and provincial government experts working together. Today, almost five years later, the elements of this ambitious plan are largely in place.

Biosecurity Protocols
According to an interim epidemiology report examining the sources and spread of the 2004 AI outbreak, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency suggested the poultry industry in the Fraser Valley was particularly vulnerable to an outbreak of HPAI because of a number of factors including the lack of standardized biosecurity practices coupled with the high density of poultry farms in the region. That prompted the BCPA and a team of industry and federal and provincial government technical experts, including local private veterinarian practitioners, as well as leading international experts, to develop a comprehensive set of 18 mandatory on-farm biosecurity standards and protocols focusing on farm access, barn access, flock health and farm management. The standards are as follows:

  • A secure barrier that restricts vehicle entry must be present at all primary and secondary accesses to the Controlled Access Zone.
  • Approved biosecurity signage must be clearly displayed at all primary and secondary accesses.
  • All primary accesses to the Controlled Access Zone must be constructed of hard surface or gravel that prevents any persistent accumulation of pooled water.
  • All primary accesses to the Controlled Access Zone must have an approved cleaning and decontamination site for vehicles and personnel.
  • The Controlled Access Zone must be maintained clean and free of organic debris at all times.
  • All poultry barn entrances shall remain locked at all times that the barn is unoccupied by farm personnel.
  • Approved restricted access signs shall be posted at all barn entrances.
  • All poultry barns must have an anteroom at all primary entrances to allow personnel to comply with the farm biosecurity procedures during entry and exit.
  • Barn entryways and anterooms must be maintained clean and free of debris at all times.
  • Individual flock health records must be maintained.
  • Poultry mortalities and cull eggs must be handled and disposed of in an approved manner.
  • An effective pest control program must be in place.
  • A management program that prevents the contamination of feed and water sources must be in place.
  • All equipment and materials related to the production of poultry that enter or leave the Controlled Access Zone, regardless of size or use, must be clean and decontaminated.
  • All farms must have a documented manure management strategy.
  • On-farm biosecurity training is required for all producers and farm employees.
  • Standard Operating Procedures for on-farm biosecurity must be available.
  • An activity logbook for the premises that records daily on-farm activities relevant to the biosecurity standard operating procedures must be maintained.
  •  Definition of Controlled Access Zone (CAZ) – The area of land and building constituting the premises that is accessed through a secure primary access.

Each biosecurity standard is accompanied by a rationale giving context to the protocol as well as a set of interpretive guidelines that offers producers objective measures against which they can gauge their compliance. A glossary of terms and definitions further contributes to a common understanding of expectations.

These mandatory biosecurity standards have been included in the general orders of the relevant poultry Boards and Commission in B.C. Auditors retained by the Boards and Commission visit all regulated poultry farms in the province to ensure compliance. Farms that are not in compliance are advised of the requirements to achieve compliance. When compliance is achieved, the farm is issued a “Certificate of Compliance.”

As of September 2008, most B.C. poultry farms had undergone a biosecurity audit, achieving certification. All regulated producers in the province will be certified by the end of 2008.

The B.C. Poultry Biosecurity Program
One of the ways producers have moved towards compliance and certification is by participating in the B.C. Poultry Biosecurity Program. Developed and delivered by the BCPA, the program helps producers identify biosecurity risks on their farms and encourages them to adopt practices that minimize the risk of diseases spreading onto or between poultry farms, thereby securing the health of the entire industry.

How it works
Producers attend a workshop or a one-on-one session with a planning advisor. One of the first steps for producers is to conduct a risk assessment of their farm, either by themselves, using a specifically designed planning workbook and reference guide, or with the assistance of their planning advisor (whose services were available free of charge). The assessment identifies strengths and vulnerabilities of each farm. It also identifies any enhanced measures that could further reduce biosecurity risks over and above those needed for protocol compliance.

With the assessment complete, the producer develops an action plan identifying the steps required to achieve compliance and to prioritize action items. Planning advisors are again available to help establish priorities, assist in developing on-farm solutions, and to approve the final biosecurity farm plan.

Emergency Response Plan
Even strict biosecurity measures can’t guarantee that infectious disease outbreaks will be prevented. Recognizing this reality, the B.C. poultry industry has taken the additional step of developing an emergency response plan (ERP) designed to rapidly contain and eradicate a possible disease outbreak. The ERP was developed jointly by a team of industry and federal and provincial technical experts.

Central to the plan is the Emergency Response Team, or ERT. Structured according to what’s known as the Incident Command System, the ERT consists of four sections: operations, planning, logistics and finance. This structure is consistent with and links to the B.C. FADES (Foreign Animal Disease Eradication Support) Plan. ERT positions with clearly defined responsibilities and lines of reporting have been identified. Emergency preparedness training has been completed, and the ERT stands ready to put the plan into action in the event of an infectious disease or other emergency that affects the poultry industry.

The ERP itself covers the full range of actions starting with a first response to a possible outbreak, through the declaration of an emergency, incident control and stand down, and recovery, including facilitating economic recovery and re-establishing flock schedules as well as markets. It also makes provisions for an incident review, allowing the ERT to identify any gaps in command or communication, identify other areas needing improvement, and make recommendations for updating the ERP and Biosecurity Standards. To complement the ERP a Premises Identification System has been developed. This system uses GIS mapping techniques and a central database with current information on all regulated poultry farms. Capable people with the right tools following best practices will help ensure the ERT contains any outbreak quickly and efficiently.

Risk management
In addition to reducing the future risk of disease outbreaks and rapidly containing any incidents that might occur, the B.C. poultry industry and government partners continue to pursue a number of other measures. A risk analysis of the B.C. poultry industry has been completed, including an examination of current risk factors, existing risk management initiatives, products, and tools, and completion of a gap analysis. Industry and government stakeholders continue to develop and implement risk management options and tools for the poultry industry.

At the end of the day, will it be enough to prevent a repeat of 2004? Maybe not, because when it comes to biosecurity, there’s no such thing as an absolutely fail-safe strategy. That said, with the help and co-operation of partner agencies and the provincial and federal governments, the B.C. poultry industry is better protected today than ever before, and is ready for the challenges of the future.

Additional information on the B.C. Poultry Biosecurity Program and Emergency Response Plan can be found at  /www.bcac.bc.ca. For information on federal biosecurity initiatives and resources, visit the CFIA Office of Animal Biosecurity web-link at: www.inspection.gc.ca/english/animal/biosec/biosece.shtml.