Never let your guard down (Editorial)

(Nov. 22, 2016) Diligence in biosecurity by area poultry growers paid off last winter with no reported incidence of High Pathogenic Avian Influenza on Delmarva and the Mid-Atlantic region.
But that was then and just because it didn’t happen last winter doesn’t mean it can’t happen this winter.
That means the same heightened sense of precaution and urgency of carefulness growers exhibited last year is crucial again now.
At the Delmarva Poultry Industry Inc., sponsored National Meeting on Poultry Health, Processing and Live Production in December, Duane Murphy a veterinarian at Indiana-based Farbest Foods detailed his experiences in dealing with an outbreak of HPAI.
He said they had learned from previous outbreaks to have a plan in place but still learned a lot in handling one of their own.
Murphy relayed to Delmarva growers and industry personnel attending the meeting the grim tale of confirming the disease, establishing a control zone, conducting traceback surveillance, depopulating and decontaminating infected farms to show importance of having a practiced plan in place and the severity of the disruption.
After the disease was confirmed there in January 2016, the last affected farm wasn’t repopulated until July.
“I tell my guys: What is your line of separation?” Murphy said. “What are you doing at that line to keep virus out of your barn?”
Last year in Georgia, the Georgia Poultry Federation launched its All In Or All Gone campaign to reinforce strong biosecurity practices.
“All in means is all of us practicing biosecurity measures all the time,” Mike Cronic of Columbia Farms of Georgia said at the national meeting, explaining the campaign. “Catching avian influenza on your farm means your chickens are all gone. The flock will be depopulated and your farm will be quarantined.”
It started with service technicians having “tailgate talks” with growers about how they can improve things on their farm.
Then integrators hosted meetings with growers and first responders to go over procedures in handling an outbreak.
Cronic said along with keeping HPAI off its farms, they saw decreased incidences of other diseases including mycoplasma synoviae and laryngotracheitis, which saved birds and made money for growers.
For growers on Delmarva and throughout the Mid-Atlantic, biosecurity has been part of their management for years if not decades, only re-emphasized by integrators and Extension specialists amidst this most recent and real threat.
But with practices having been in place for that long, the threat of complacency is just as real too, creating opportunity for avian influenza to attack.
Here’s to all growers maintaining that line of separation.
The stakes are too high to do otherwise.