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How to guard your hatchery against biosecurity threats

How to guard your hatchery against biosecurity threats

Biosecurity, by simple definition, is a set of procedures undertaken to limit the spread of infectious pathogens to a susceptible population. It is, however, more than that. Biosecurity is a mindset, a way of assessing and reacting to potential risks. And it is the right mindset combined with the right procedures that will guard your hatchery against biosecurity threats.

By Petersime Hatchery Specialist Team

Develop a biosecurity mindset at the hatchery

In successful hatchery operations, everything starts with biosecurity. There are procedures and protocols that need to be followed. But, in fact, biosecurity is more than that. It is a mindset, not just a series of actions. Fostering a biosecurity culture is important to its long-term success. Every employee in the hatchery needs to understand why strong biosecurity procedures are critical to the hatchery’s success. When hatchery staff members know the underlying importance, they are likely to be more engaged in how they can take specific actions. The recent widespread COVID-19 pandemic has all helped us to understand this better: it is about the determination to do the right thing in order to protect people, livestock, etc.

4 risk factors

To establish an efficient and effective biosecurity procedure, it makes sense to invest in the highest risks that are within your control. For this reason, we will look at four vectors that can bring pathogens into your operations. Once you know what the vectors – or risk factors – are, you can take appropriate measures to limit the chance of introduction into your hatchery:

  • Incoming eggs
  • People
  • Site access
  • Other animals

1. Incoming eggs

A first ‘threat’ is in the eggs coming from the farm. Some diseases can be transmitted to the egg whilst it is still in development within the oviduct. This kind of transmission is called ‘true vertical transmission’. Weekly testing of breeder flocks can alert you to such diseases. This allows you to pull eggs from a flock that may be infected, prior to transferring them to a hatcher, as once the birds start hatching, they can start spreading the disease.

‘Apparent vertical transmission’ is contamination on the surface of the egg. Soiled eggs should never come into the hatchery, as they contain a huge bacterial and viral threat. Also, any faecal matter or feathers on the surface of the eggs can be drawn into egg transfer heads, which can lead to cross-contamination of other A-grade eggs. This is why only clean nest eggs should be used and an early fumigation should be done on the farm to reduce bacterial levels.

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‘Apparent vertical transmission’, or contamination on the surface of the egg, is to be avoided at all times.

2. People

People are a high-risk factor in spreading disease from one location to another. To prevent this from happening, you can introduce a few simple, yet very effective practices into your hatchery:

  • Provide biosecurity training courses for all employees. New staff should be trained immediately. Annual refresher training courses are advisable.
  • Don’t allow employees to own (or interact with) avian species or visit wet markets and other high-risk locations for avian diseases, due to the risk of disease transmission. Physical contact with wild birds and hunting wild birds should also always be avoided.

3. Site access

Proper measures are needed to prevent unauthorised access to the hatchery and ensure adequate biosecurity control on site:

  • Fence off the premises with clear signage and control the entry and exit points.
  • Maintain a visitor record and have all visitors answer a questionnaire upon arrival to screen for biosecurity risks. Include questions about ‘reason for visit’, ‘last avian site visited’, ‘date of visit’ etc., for traceability in the event of a disease breakout.
  • All personnel entering the hatchery should pass through a barrier shower, a...

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