Measures to Prevent and Control Disease Outbreak in Poultry and Livestock Farms

Alt: = "picture showing two goats and one sick chicken"

Table of contents

  • Ways diseases spread
  • General measures of disease prevention and control
  • Farm biosecurity
  • Importance of biosecurity measures

  1. Biosecurity plan Measures to prevent disease and control disease outbreak

Ways Diseases are spread on the farm

Feed and water — faecal and urine contamination

Farm equipment — dirt/ manure carried on trucks, cars, tractors, dips, vaccination guns etc

People — employees, contractors, neighbours, contaminants/ manure/ dirt carried on hands, boots, clothing etc.

General Measures of Disease Prevention on the Poultry Farm

Selection of appropriate breeds of livestock and birds that can adapt well to local conditions and have good vitality and disease resistance.

Good husbandry that encourages strong disease resistance and prevent infection.

Use of appropriate stocking densities and regimes.

Sick or injured animals must be treated immediately.

For specific advice on individual disease problems, their prevention and treatment, consult a veterinary surgeon.

Good standard farm biosecurity measures to prevent, control disease outbreaks

Farm Biosecurity

Biosecurity is a broad term describing the measures taken to prevent and manage the risk of introducing and spreading diseases and pests in farm. These measures ultimately protect the community, environment and the economy at large.

Importance of Biosecurity Measures

Reduce the risk of introducing diseases, pests and weeds to the farm

Reduce the risk of spreading diseases, pests and weeds to the farm

Increase productivity

Early detection and management of diseases and pests

Potentially reduce the impact and cost, if there is an outbreak, as biosecurity practices may result in faster detection and management.

Biosecurity Plan

The ability of poultry and livestock industry to withstand a disease outbreak and  ultimately limit the cost to the industry is influenced by individual biosecurity plans. It is critical to have a plan in place which outlines clearly stating  the biosecurity practices implemented in the farm. This plan may include:

Mapping the farm/ property which outlines the land and any subdivisions, neighboring properties, waterways and sites where potentially contaminated water can enter, stock handling facilities, where your livestock are currently located. Read principles of farm design.

Determine what type of business your neighboring properties are running and any associated risk (interaction between fences, risk of stray, chance of cross-contamination, chemical drift).

Keep records of all farm activities for traceability and to support any claims made on any disease incidence. Keeping records can be as simple as writing notes in personal diary, using computer programs such as excel spread sheets or specifically made farm record  documents.

Measures to Prevent and Control Disease Outbreak

There are a number of ways to reduce this risk. They include:

1. Before buying a poultry and livestock

Check the health status/ history of the birds/ animals before purchasing. Only purchase stock from reputable source. Take additional precautions when buying from open markets as they present a higher risk due to contact with other livestock.

2. Introduction of new stocks

When using a carrier to transport birds/ livestock, enquire into the health of the recent loads. If in doubt, ask for the truck to be washed before transporting stock. When returning livestock to the farm from sales,  isolate animals on return to the farm and if  necessary treat before returning to group to prevent disease spread. Consider the level of hygiene at the sale before attending and implement biosecurity practices once there (i.e feed and water from your equipment only, avoid feed contamination and use the appropriately labeled wash bays). While in isolation, the animal should be treated for external parasites and given a broad spectrum antibiotics.

3. Moving animals off farm

When moving livestock off the farm/ property, ensure they are fit to load and all records are up to date to support documentation. Dispose of carcasses in isolated areas in the farm/ property, taking into account environmental considerations such as waterways. Disease infected bird and other livestock material should ideally be burnt or buried.

4. Vaccination

Animals should be vaccinated against preventable diseases such as Gunboro, Lasota etc, especially chickens, at the right time. Vaccination schedule should be strictly adhered to.

5. Avoid overcrowding

Birds and other animals should not be overcrowded in a pen or house. Overcrowding allows for easy spread of disease particularly contagious disease such as diseases caused by parasites and fungi.

6. Separate sick from healthy animals

Once an animal shows sign of ill health, it should be separated from the healthy ones and treated in isolation.

7. Fencing

Maintain fences and gates to minimize the risk of stray animals and potential for a farm stock to interact with neighbour’s stock. Fencing will also protect the chickens from rodents and predators that has the potential of introducing diseases to the poultry.

8. Control equipment and people’s movement

Disease, pests and weeds can unintentionally be carried into the farm by staff, visitors and equipment. Display simple, highly visible signs to support the farm biosecurity. Assess the risk visitors pose to the farm. High risk visitors such as those in contact with livestock (i.e veterinarians, transporters, neighbours, hunters) should wear clean boots, clothing and disinfect any equipment that has been in direct contact with other livestock. Provide facilities for high risk visitors to clean their boots and equipment on arrival and departure. Screen how people enter your farm/ property by limiting entry points and lock restricted entry gates. Clean equipment and machinery before and after use, paying attention to equipment used for feeding and handling manure. Equipment used to move manure should not be shared between farms, unless thoroughly cleaned or disinfected.

9. Stock feed and farm inputs

When available, try to source feed locally. This will minimize introduction of pests to the farm. Make sure feed does not contain high levels contaminants.

10. Drainage 

Identify waterways and drainage that could potentially carry contaminants (faecal mater, chemicals) into the farm. Stop chickens and other animals accessing waterways and drainage by fencing off the areas.

11. Toxic materials

Certain chemical compound plants are poisonous and may cause disorder in animals. These materials should be kept away from where the animals can reach to avoid being ingested or contaminating feed, drinking water. Ruminants grazing on good pasture tend to avoid poisonous plants.

12. Avoid under nutrition

Under nutrition is major cause of disease. This apart from causing a  disease problem of its own, lowers the resistance of the animal to other diseases.

13. Reporting disease

Early recognition of disease is one of the most important factors in controlling a disease outbreak and minimizing the social and economic impacts. Always keep an eye out for unusual symptoms which can include:

unexplained deaths, 

any kind of discharge (diarrhea) especially if it has blood in it, 

severe lameness, staggering or head drooping particularly if  it is more than one animal at a time,

Less dramatic signs such as animals not eating and animals that are depressed and don’t respond the way they should.

Report cases of unusual sickness or death to veterinarian or local government veterinary office.

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