By Abby Schuft, Associate Extension Professor and Extension Educator, University of Minnesota
As the nation has watched Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza (HPAI) hit state after state, it’s evident HPAI is going to be here longer than anyone would like. All avian industries, including yours, have to shift and take biosecurity to the next level as an everyday part of production, if they haven’t already. Regardless of your production size or holding capacity, a biosecurity plan and its consistent implementation need to become as routine as hatching eggs, providing feed or setting birds for a hunt.
When and Why You Need a Biosecurity Plan
There are four reasons why you need a biosecurity plan.
1. Best Management Practice
Biosecurity is the steps you take to prevent or reduce the spread of disease. A biosecurity plan is a written document that outlines all the various biosecurity steps you, your family, employees and guests will participate in for the health and safety of the birds on your premises. With birds as the backbone of your business, their wellness also ensures the health of your business.
Myah Walker, Compliance Unit Supervisor for the Minnesota Board of Animal Health says, “The purpose of having a biosecurity plan isn’t to appease a regulatory need, it’s to have a plan in place that will help protect your birds.”
A biosecurity plan should be a working document, changing as risk and/or circumstances change. Once you have a base biosecurity plan written, it should be reviewed annually, at minimum. The plan and any of its changes need to be shared with all employees annually and as needed with guests and customers.
“For the benefit of the producer [a biosecurity plan] should be as thorough as possible,” Walker continues. “Run through different scenarios in different seasons. Have backup plans. Make sure employees are cross-trained in protocols.”
In early November 2022, Tim Zindl of Oak Ridge Pheasant Ranch in Watertown, Wisconsin received confirmation his farm had HPAI. In the chaos of the disease response, he says his biosecurity plan “kept it from spreading because of the protocols in place.”
2. You Raise More Than 25,000 Upland Gamebirds Annually
If you meet this criterion, as of September 2020, you’re required to have a National Poultry Improvement Plan (NPIP) Biosecurity Plan and a biennial audit of that plan by your NPIP Official State Agency (OSA). If you teeter on this production number, or have only recently hit this production size, reach out to your state NPIP official to learn the process of having your plan audited.
You do have the option to decline this audit, though it will affect your eligibility for indemnity if you are confirmed to have HPAI on your premises.
3.You Want to Move Live Birds or Eggs and Egg Products off Your Premises When You’re in a Designated Control Area
Permitted movement is necessary for uninfected farms and premises to continue business operations when they’re impacted by a designated Control Area (10-km radius around an infected premises, which is 6.2 miles). One criterion that needs to be met to receive a movement permit is to show state and federal authorities that your biosecurity measures in place are acceptable. Being prepared with a thorough biosecurity plan is the easiest and quickest way to do this.
Movement permits are issued by state. Learn more about this process through the Secure Upland Gamebird Supply Plan (secureuplandgamebirdsupply.com).
4. You Want to Stock Your Uninfected Premises Inside a Designated Control Area
If you methodically choose to move birds into a Control Area, USDA requires a biosecurity audit. Regardless of your production size, the USDA audit is separate from an NPIP biennial audit. Remember, Avian Influenza response is under the direction of USDA, not NPIP. The USDA audit is only needed if you want to place birds within a Control Area and be eligible for indemnity.
Where and How do I Start Writing a Biosecurity plan?
The NPIP biosecurity guidelines were developed by avian experts and industry professionals across the country and have been set as minimum standards for all poultry industries in the U.S. Reviewing these principles is an easy starting point for any bird business. These guidelines will apply to any poultry business, even if you aren’t required to have your biosecurity plan audited every other year.
Poultryimprovement.org is the NPIP website. Navigate the menu on the left side of the page to “NPIP Program Standards.” To learn about the biosecurity principles that are the basis of the NPIP biosecurity plan, select “2019 Program Standards – Standards A-E.” The biosecurity standards are section “E.”
Other resources and helpful information can also be found within the Program Standards menu. For example, view and save the “Audit Form.” This is the actual form that your OSA will use to complete your audit. It’s the answer key for your biosecurity plan! If the answer to each question can be found in your biosecurity plan, you’re on your way to a successful audit.
There are two additional online resources that will help write your biosecurity plan, step-by-step.
Hosted by Iowa State University in cooperative agreement with USDA-APHIS, poultrybiosecurity.org offers a self-assessment of biosecurity, plan templates, instructions for creating site maps and examples of standard operating procedures for cleaning and disinfection.
Another online tool that can help you navigate your biosecurity and write it into a plan was created at the University of Minnesota and is available at z.umn.edu/npip. You can find all NPIP documents, record keeping templates, plan templates and a breakdown of each biosecurity principle. The existing learning center is being reformatted with the new site launching in January 2023. The new site will include a section specific to upland gamebirds, including biosecurity plan templates that make more sense for your production systems that differ from other poultry industries.
Biosecurity is important for the health of your birds and your business. Writing a comprehensive biosecurity plan will prepare you for biosecure management practices every day and in the event of a disease outbreak. The steps you take on your farm, club or preserve also protect your customers, your business partners and fellow upland gamebird businesses. Zindl concludes, very matter-of-factly, “Your biosecurity is for the good of the whole.”