The threat of Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza (HPAI) in Europe is driving the need for greater poultry feed biosecurity. Interest in control tools has spiked, according to feed pathogen specialist Anitox. CEO Dr Rick Phillips explains: “We’re seeing a notable increase in activity to ensure feed isn’t a route for AI onto farm, as poultry producers and feed suppliers heighten biosecurity to avoid the massive farm depopulations witnessed in the USA.”

The threat has been highlighted by EU Commissioner of Health and Food Safety Vytenis Andriukaitis. In a statement to the media, Commissioner Andriukaitis called on Member State Authorities and the poultry sector for extreme vigilance over this virus, and in particular the stepping up of biosecurity on poultry farms”.

Feed is an integral part of protecting poultry from HPAI, explains Dr Phillips, a poultry veterinarian with extensive field experience prior to joining Anitox. “Migratory birds are a known vector for the transmission of the avian influenza virus. The UK lies on the migratory route for large numbers of birds, including ducks and geese, on route to overwinter in milder climates. With them comes the risk of Avian Influenza transmission and a potential threat to commercial feed supplies.”

“As the US Department of Agriculture noted, while feed and water may not be the main vector for AI, effectively managing risk means covering all possible bases. Wild birds congregate around lakes and water sources on migratory routes, and are widely accepted to be responsible for inter-continental spread of the virus.  In previous outbreaks we’ve then seen a pattern of clustered local incidence following an initial outbreak.  A number of mechanical vectors have been identified, from human and vehicle movements to feed, all with the potential to breach farm biosecurity.”

Feed is at risk because of the frequent transfer of passerines and vermin between water sources and stores of finished feed. “We know small birds and rodents are efficient mechanical vectors, and that they are attracted to water and feed, effectively building a bridge between migratory birds and farmed poultry,” added Dr Phillips.

Dr Phillips reassured producers that effective control tools are readily available. “Feed producers are extremely aware of biosecurity and work to ensure feed is free from pathogens, including the AI virus, as it leaves the mill.  But layer mash, unlike pelleted feed, is far less likely to be subject to effective heat treatment.  Your feed producer can advise you on what more can be done to protect your layer mash once it leaves the mill.”