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AHI Targeted Advisory Service on Animal Health - Poultry Biosecurity Assessments

As part of the Rural Development Plan 2014-2020, DAFM, in conjunction with the EU, are funding a Targeted Advisory Service on Animal Health (TASAH) for farmers, delivered by trained veterinary practitioners. (AHI, 2023) This service has been extended for a number of years.

For the poultry sector, this funding allows a poultry producer to get a biosecurity audit completed by a trained Private Veterinary Practitioner (PVP). This is one funded assessment per year, offering a chance to improve from year to year under guidance from a PVP. Previously, this was only available to broiler and layer units. Now, this has been extended to turkey, broiler breeder, broiler breeder rearers and turkey breeder units.

The assessments follow the Biocheck approach designed by Ghent University. On it both external and internal biosecurity measures will be examined. This process aims to identify areas of weakness which may lead to a breach in biosecurity and therefore, potentially cause a disease issue on farm.

The areas which are examined (example for layer units) are outlined below:

External Biosecurity:

  • Purchase of one-day-chicks
  • Purchase of laying hens
  • Depopulation of the poultry houses
  • Feed and water
  • Transport of eggs
  • Removal of manure and carcasses
  • Visitors and farmworkers
  • Material supply
  • Infrastructure and biological vectors
  • Location of the farm

Internal Biosecurity:

  • Disease management
  • Cleaning and disinfection
  • Materials and measures between compartments

Following the assessment, the PVP who completes the assessment will produce a report indicate the strong and weaker areas of biosecurity on the poultry farm. They will also make three recommendations on areas which require improvement.

Figure 1 below shows overall results from assessments carried out on broiler and layer units. The results are presented as external, internal and overall. In general, the uptake has been best with broiler units, with a lower uptake by layer farmers. The producer will receive a report for their own unit, it will look something similar to figure 2. The improvement recommendations will be based off the results presented to the farmer.

Figure 1 outlines the overall average results achieved from the assessments. Broiler farms achieved a score of 77% in the external category, 79% in the internal category and 77% as an overall result. Layer farms achieved a score of 76% in the external category, 86% in the internal category, and 81% as an overall result.

Figure 1: Overall Broiler & Layer Assessment Results (Up to end of May 2023) Source: AHI

Figure 2 gives an example result from a layer farm. The external categories are:  A.	Purchase of one-day-chicks (Score 85%) B.	Purchase of layers (Score 95%) C.	Depopulation of hens (Score 72%) D.	Transport of eggs (Score 37%) E.	Feed and water supply (Score 71%) F.	Removal of manure and dead animals (Score 69%) G.	Entrance of personnel and visitors (Score 70%) H.	Supply of materials (Score 74%) I

Figure 2: Example of results for layer farm

The eligibility criteria currently are:

  • All layer units with 50 or more birds
  • All commercial broiler units
  • All turkey farms with 50 or more birds
  • All breeder farms with 250 or more birds

Each farm is only eligible for one visit (as identified by the flock number and the type of poultry species evaluated). The definition of breeder is aligned with Regulation (EU) 2035/2019 - ‘Breeding poultry means poultry 72 hours old or more, intended for the production of hatching eggs’; therefore, broiler breeders, broiler breeder rearers and turkeys are to be included.

These assessments are 100% free to the producer. They are an excellent opportunity to have a fresh set of eyes look at the biosecurity measures in place on your unit and receive recommendations from a vet. You can check the list of trained PVPs on the Animal Health Ireland website at: https://animalhealthireland.ie/programmes/poultry-biosecurity-review-tasah/