Biosecurity at the Barn entrance –A critical control point


Biosecurity measures are in place to protect poultry flocks from transmissible infections — but how effective are they really? Researchers in Quebec and Ontario evaluated biosecurity measures in lab and field conditions— including the contamination occurring when procedures are not followed properly, and the real impact of a good clean. Now, they’re using their data to create training materials to share what they learned about sanitation and the risk of contamination at the entrance of barns

“In Canada we have only two biosecurity requirements coast-to-coast: We are supposed to change our boots when we enter a poultry barn and sign a logbook,” says Jean-Pierre Vaillancourt, University of Montreal. “We discovered half the time people didn’t know how to properly change boots to go from one zone to the next, and only a third of barn entries got recorded in a logbook.”


In reviewing footage for boot-changing compliance, researchers identified three basic types of errors. Some people didn’t change boots at all. Others changed their boots but didn’t change them as they transitioned from one zone to the next. The third error occurred when people managed to move into the zone that is considered clean and then change their boots, which in the process contaminated the “clean” zone with the boots they were wearing when they came from outside.

“I wanted to work with real pathogens to see how they spread, and we were able to modify an E. coli so it could produce bioluminescence,” says Vaillancourt. “We did a series of experiments and came up with images showing that when a site is contaminated with contaminated boots, a person can contaminate at least 10 metres into the room.”


In the second part of the project, Ontario researchers investigated how pathogen loads are affected by current barn sanitation procedures recommended by the poultry industry. A University of Guelph research team led by Dr. Michele Guerin tested for the presence or concentration of three pathogens in Ontario broiler chicken barns, before and after a clean-out. Cleaning was done as a dry clean, a dry clean followed by a wet clean with detergent, or a full disinfection that included dry and wet cleaning and then a disinfecting agent.

“We were interested in learning how regular sanitation practices on farms impact the presence or absence of Salmonella and Clostridium perfringens, and the concentration of E. coli,” says Guerin.

“With all three pathogens, we found the presence or concentration was lower in the post-sanitation samples compared to the pre-sanitation, or baseline samples,” says Guerin. And worth noting, is that the presence of C. perfringens, the causative agent of necrotic enteritis, was higher among disinfected barns than dry-cleaned barns. Guerin says it’s a good reminder for producers to discuss the disease challenges they have in their flocks with their veterinarian.

For all three pathogens, the presence or concentration was higher on wooden floors than concrete floors. It’s a point worth considering when it comes to new builds, says Guerin.


Vaillancourt’s team is now developing recommendations for designing barn entrances that allow workers to easily wash and disinfect. They are also developing training material about the risk of contamination at the entrance of barns. “We are trying to get people to wash their hands, change their boots and put on coveralls. If people would actually do that correctly, we would see a dramatic reduction in disease outbreaks of many kinds all over the world,” Vaillancourt says.


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