Prevention is the best measure against disease in poultry production [VIDEO]

Neogen's Stuart Heller explores how double disinfection is an effective strategy to prevent disease outbreaks, such as HPAI.

Biosecurity is a hot topic throughout the agrifood sector; however, the outbreak of severe disease challenges in recent years, such as highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI), have further emphasized its importance in poultry production.

Stuart Heller, Neogen's biosecurity sales support specialist, joins WATT Poultry Chat to examine strategies producers can adopt to prevent the introduction of pathogens in their operations.

Transcript of WATT Poultry Chat featuring Stuart Heller, biosecurity sales support specialist, Neogen

Jackie Roembke, editor in chief, WATT Feed Brands: Hi, everyone. Welcome to WATT Poultry Chat. I'm your guest host, Jackie Roembke, editor in chief of WATT's feed brands.

This edition of WATT Poultry Chat is brought to you by Neogen.

Neogen is committed to fueling a brighter future for global food security through the advancement of human and animal well-being. With the power of science and technology, Neogen has developed comprehensive biosecurity solutions to help provide poultry producers with the tools needed to prevent the introduction and spread of infectious diseases. Neogen's Synergize Disinfectant has been an industry standard for over 20 years. Recently, Neogen introduced Viroxide Super (NVS), a high-powered, dry, oxidizing disinfectant, along with its EVO line of phosphate-free detergents for the hatchery.

For more information about Neogen and its products, please visit

Today we're joined by Stuart Heller, a biosecurity sales support specialist with Neogen. He is here to discuss how prevention is the most effective measure in fighting disease.

Hi, Stuart, how are you today?

Stuart Heller, biosecurity sales support specialist, NeogenFine, Jackie, how are you?

Roembke: I'm doing great. Thank you so much. Well, let's get right into it. How has biosecurity and poultry production evolved throughout the years?

Heller: Without dating myself too badly, when I first started in the mid-80s, biosecurity wasn't even a word. You know, we talked about sanitation and cleaning. We weren't too far off because when we checked out the meaning of sanitation in Webster's dictionary, it talked about sanitation being the means by which health was protected. So, we were on the right track.

Through the years, obviously, biosecurity has evolved into something far more comprehensive and all encompassing. We started realizing that man is the basic transmitter of disease. We carry it with us from one location to another, and we started addressing that through limited visitation to farms, downtime between farm visits, we instituted a lot of shower in, shower out. If that wasn't available then we did disposable coveralls and plastic boots and hair nets and that type of stuff. And we started paying more attention to the vehicles that are hauling eggs and baby chicks and things of that nature.

Biosecurity became a lot more than just cleaning and disinfecting.

Roembke: Biosecurity can be a bit intangible since we don't see micro organisms being inactivated. How do you know these measures are working?

Heller: Great question. Well, first, I'll state the obvious. I will say that the pork and poultry producers have historically been far more invested in biosecurity than other production animal sectors. So then the question becomes does it work?

I think the best example I have is actually from the pork production side, where in the spring of 2013, the market was just hammered by a brand new virus [porcine epidemic diarrhea virus (PEDV)]. It was a novel virus, no herd immunity, no vaccines. The only option was to enhance or ramp up existing biosecurity measures. You know, more cleaning, more disinfecting, creating this invisible barrier around the farm and making sure that everything coming across that barrier was treated. By the wintertime six months later, we'd learned a lot about the virus, but there was more to go: How does it affect the animals? How long does it last? How is it transmitted?

At that same time during that winter of 2013, another virus that has historically just beaten the industry to death during the winter months, showed a significant reduction in breaks. So I went to a good buddy of mine, who is one of the experts in the field, and I asked him, "Would it be reasonable for someone to assume that all these extra biosecurity measures we were taking had a direct impact on this other virus that had normally taken hold during the winter?" He gave me a three word answer. He said, "If they're smart."

So does biosecurity work? Yeah, I think we see examples of it all the time.

Roembke: What additional steps can producers take and implement during disease outbreaks like avian influenza?

Heller: During a disease outbreak, this is when these comprehensive plans that we all have become really comprehensive. This is when we build that invisible perimeter around our facilities. We do it in a number of different ways. We call it "adding layers of biosecurity." It could be in addition to or including: limited visitation, little limited people movement farm to farm. We might install pass-through windows on a farm where workers would have their personal items treated, e.g. cell phones, lunch bags, whatever it might be, with a quick disinfecting. We make sure that foot baths are in application throughout the farm and they're filled with product.

We might institute new shower-in and shower-out policies. If that's not available, then at the very least, we would want handwashing stations. Remember, man is the No. 1 transmitter of disease. We know service people going farm-to-farm should have backpack sprayers of disinfecting solution for spraying tires and undercarriages. Again, just trying to make sure we don't bring disease from one area, or one farm, to the next, what I would call a breaking the cycle of cross contamination.

Then in warm weather, we actually have research and programs that indicate if we can get those cool cell pads in poultry barns saturated with a disinfectant, we can inactivate aerosol virus passing through those pads in less than 60 seconds.

These are a number of steps that can be taken to again break that cycle of cross contamination.

Roembke: Sustainability β€” and everything related to it β€” is a very hot topic. What role does environmental stewardship play in improving an operations biosecurity protocols?

Heller: Well, it's getting bigger and bigger, right? Even today, probably going back to at least 20 years, there's are many townships and municipalities, limiting or banning the use of phosphates to preserve aquaculture. The theory is that phosphates encourage the growth of algae. Algae, you know, sucks up all the oxygen and prevents it from getting down to the life down at the bottom of these ponds or lagoons or whatever they might be.

My opinion of this is that every producer would be more than happy to acknowledge that they're contributing to sustainability. You know, no one shies away from that. Everyone would love to be able to say that, yeah, you know, I'm helping, I'm doing my part here. I'm going phosphate free. I'm using biodegradable-type products.

The problem is that the cost has to be reasonable. It's up to suppliers to help producers achieve these environmental goals while not crushing their bottom line. It's a very, very delicate balance.

Roembke: Thank you for those insights. Anything else you would like to add on the biosecurity topic?

Heller: Well, I guess the best way to wrap all this up is that a quick visit to the USDA APHIS website clearly states β€” in big bold letters β€” that biosecurity is key to protecting your flocks. They will specifically recommend disinfecting boots, clean coveralls, hand washing, cleaning egg trays or flats, vehicles and tires. They want to avoid exposing cleaned and disinfected equipment to wild birds. They want you to wash hands and scrub boots before entering anywhere they would consider a poultry area. You know wearing disposable boots covers things like that.

They do recommend cleaning and disinfecting barns in between flocks. So in between a depopulation/repopulation situation. You know, let's get, whatever is in that building, from a disease standpoint, let's get it out. I've actually spoken to a number of producers that just recently started doing what I would consider double disinfecting. They disinfect once with one product, wait 48 hours, come back and give themselves that safety net with a second disinfectant.

What I would recommend for producers that are doing and going to these extremes, is that they would make sure they're using two different disinfectants don't disinfect twice with the same product. There's no real benefit to that. If you can find multiple types of chemistries, we're then coming at the organisms from different angles.

Other than that, we appreciate the opportunity. Thank you so much.

Roembke: Very good. Thank you so much for sharing those insights. For more information on the solutions discussed here today, visit Neogen’s Biosecurity Solution Catalog found on the Resources page of the Neocenter at

Thanks again, Stuart. And thanks to you for tuning in.

Heller: Thank you, Jackie.

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