Don’t overlook feed biosecurity in efforts to manage Salmonella

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Biosecurity in feed mills and on-farm feed storage should not be overlooked when it comes to managing the risk of Salmonella in poultry flocks, according to a turkey-health expert.

Genevieve Huard, DVM, of Hendrix Genetics in Ontario, Canada, said while Salmonella can be found in many places on-farm, it is often forgotten that feed can become contaminated at various stages in the production process.

And while producers might mostly focus their biosecurity efforts on-farm, there are measures they can take to encourage feed mills to play a greater role in helping limit Salmonella in the production chain.

Speaking to Poultry Health Today, Huard said the first step is to begin with clean feed ingredients, which relies on taking regular samples and treating ingredients where necessary.

“At some point you can track some of your suppliers that maybe have more Salmonella than others, and then you can follow up with them…to implement measures that may reduce [levels of the pathogen],” she said.

“Trying to ask the question will put some pressure on the suppliers of feed ingredients, and if you select your suppliers based on that, then it shows you are committed [to tackling the problem].”

If feed sample tests come back positive for Salmonella, Huard said it is important not to panic. Instead, producers should look at ways to reduce the presence of the pathogen in the feed ingredients, either through heat treatment or with a formaldehyde-based product — a practice favored in North America.

While feed-mill biosecurity is an important factor, on-farm biosecurity — including where feed bins are placed and how feed is transported — is also vital, Huard added.

“When we fill up the feed bins, often that creates some dust,” she said. “That dust will attract pests like birds or small mammals, and that creates traffic on your farm.

“If you have your feed bins by your barn entrance, and you have to walk there every day to come in and out, then it might be a good idea to have the feed bins in the location that you don’t walk as often, or that you can prevent cross-contamination.”

Huard said she also recommends using a system like Danish entries, where boots, clothes and equipment are swapped before anyone enters a barn.

“A Danish entry creates a physical barrier that increases [biosecurity] compliance. If you don’t have a physical barrier, people would just go over the clean and dirty sides, and you can create cross-contamination that can reach your birds.”

Power-washing trucks to remove dust and feed particles from pipes and other areas Salmonella could grow is also important, she added.

While cleanliness should always be a key part of a farm’s biosecurity practices, Huard said regular testing is also a critical element.

“At my company, we do multi-feed sampling, so we take environmental samples for Salmonella,” she explained.

“We often [test] the vehicles twice a month; we do the outside of the feed truck…inside where the feed is stored, and we also do the driver’s cabin.

“We also make sure to sample those small areas that are often forgotten, like the controllers or the feed pipe storage location on the truck. [It’s about] targeting where your sample will improve the quality of your management.”

It’s an approach Huard said has brought Hendrix Genetics considerable success in Ontario, where the company has kept Salmonella out of its breeder flocks for turkeys and layers for almost 2 decades.

“Because biosecurity is hard, everyone and everything needs to be in place for it to really work,” she added.

“There’s a lot of training and education, and then you need communication, feedback and to understand the struggles so that you can potentially change your primary care.

“Everyone in the industry wants to do a good job; it’s just about being focused on the problem.”