Commodity Watch - Focus on Poultry Health

Saturday, 26 July, 2014

Commodity Watch 

Poultry Policy Committee Chairman Roy Campbell and UFU Poultry Policy Officer Roger Allen recently attended a conference which highlighted the threat that Campylobacter can pose to many poultry farms throughout the country. Although not a major threat in Northern Ireland, the UFU Poultry Policy Committee believes that it is something poultry farmers should be conscious of. 

What is campylobacter?

Campylobacter are bacteria which are found within a wide range of animals including all types of poultry. Many poultry flocks may be infected with campylobacter without showing any symptoms of having the disease, as generally bird performance is not affected.  Therefore, the only way to detect it within a poultry unit is through swab testing of houses and continual monitoring of results.

Why should I protect against Campylobacter on farm?

Protecting against campylobacter at farm level can help in the reduction of campylobacter cases at consumer level, as the campylobacter bacteria can survive from farm to fork (Although, usually properly handling and cooking raw meat will protect consumers from the bacteria). Once present within a flock, Campylobacter bacteria can spread and usually within 7-10 days to all birds and the environment can be contaminated. The Food Standards Agency is actively encouraging farmers to reduce the cases of campylobacter in chickens when presented for slaughter stressing that this can be achieved through maximising the use of good biosecurity measures and monitoring flocks of birds.

How can I protect against Campylobacter on farm?

The best way to protect against Campylobacter is to maintain excellent biosecurity and the majority of poultry farms in Northern Ireland will have already achieved this. Top tips include: avoiding contact with other species of animals present on the farm; ensuring appropriate sanitation of drinking water within the poultry house;   sourcing drinking water from a reliable source and good hygiene of stockmen. In addition to these factors; it is also recommended that farmers keep separate overalls and boots for each house in order to avoid contamination between houses or other farm enterprises which could lead to rapid spreading of the disease. The UFU Poultry Policy Committee is encouraging poultry farmers to be proactive on this issue and if they are not already, taking specific steps to protect against campylobacter.