The farmer will be the first to see signs of illness that may be a serious infectious disease in the flock. If a Foreign Animal Disease (FAD), such as Notifiable Avian Influenza or Exotic Newcastle Disease, were to break through the farm’s biosecurity protocols, then that farm becomes a serious risk to the rest of the poultry community. It is the early recognition of that first case that will be critical in containing and eliminating the disease quickly.
Farm mortality records serve to alert the producer to a potential problem, which should trigger the appropriate responses, the first of which will be to find the cause of the problem. The farmer should not try to diagnose the condition but instead should consult with his or her veterinarian or the diagnostic laboratory. If an infectious disease is suspected, then the next response will be self-quarantine. Once the diagnosis has been made, a response strategy will be designed in consultation with the farm’s veterinarian. This response may be as simple as a management adjustment or administration of a treatment. If a FAD is discovered, then the appropriate response will occur in accordance with various Emergency Response Plans that will be followed by the industry.
The essential elements of flock health include keeping good, consistent records, recognizing healthy birds, recognizing unusual mortality or other indicators of illness in the flock, and responding appropriately to those observations. In order to comply with OFFSAP, records of all vaccinations and treatments should also be kept.
Dead birds may be a high-risk source of infectious disease and should therefore be handled and disposed of through approved methods on the premise where they died or at a central facility with appropriate provincial permits.
The following are recommended practices relating to flock health management that enhance biosecurity on non-supply managed poultry operations:
All-In All-Out Management
However, circumstances may often require the movement of birds, so it is essential that every effort be made to move only healthy, disease-free birds. If additional birds should be added to an existing flock, this should be done in a careful manner. The source of the birds should be well known, and they should have complete health records. The vaccination program for the donor farm (for species where vaccinations are possible and commonly used)should be similar to that of the receiving farm. Also, birds should not be moved into a flock within four weeks of receiving a live vaccine. This is because, following vaccination, birds will shed vaccine virus for a period of time and this virus can cause illness in susceptible birds. A complete record of the introduced birds should be kept, including the source, number, and age of the introduced birds, the date of introduction, and complete health records, including the vaccination program.
Chick Health Status
Flock Health Records
Mortality records are the first step in assessing the health of a flock. The term “Mortality” should include birds that appear to be ill and may or may not be culled. If several birds appear to be ill, but no mortality occurs, your veterinarian should be consulted or a sample of these birds should be culled and submitted to your veterinarian or diagnostic laboratory for evaluation. Any rise in sick or dead birds should be recorded and the appropriate response protocol described in the farm’s Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) should be followed.
At a minimum, mortality records should include the total number of dead birds found. These records should be accurately completed each day.
Analysis Of Records
Good records are an important part of good management. There are many observations that can be recorded that could prove to be of value when investigating a problem, even if you have only a few birds. Having ongoing records also prompts you to regularly observe the flock. There is never too much information to be recorded, but some of the basic observations should include:
Written Vaccination And Medication Protocol
Vaccination is an important and effective way of making poultry less susceptible to specific infectious diseases. It is recognized that in some cases vaccinations do not exist or are not commonly used. As a result, there are other measures including medication that can be taken to help prevent or control a disease and reduce its impact on the flock. In either event, a written protocol for both vaccination and medication is very valuable.
Producers should make every effort to develop an effective vaccination and medication protocol for their farm. Producers should monitor industry sources for new diseases or developing threats, or for new methods of preventing or controlling disease. Your vaccination and medication protocol should be updated as new information becomes available.
Relationship With Veterinarian
A legitimate veterinarian-client-patient relationship (VCPR) is required for your veterinarian to legally dispense drugs and other medications, so you should ensure that this relationship is created before you encounter threats. This is very important when you encounter a disease problem that would necessitate treatment or any further action that may involve government regulations.
All veterinarians are educated and trained to diagnose and treat animal diseases. However, many practicing veterinarians do not specialize in poultry medicine/diagnostics. You should ensure that you have immediate access to a poultry health professional.
Sick Bird Protocols
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