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Northwest Iowa Dairy Outlooks

A local discussion of current science and issues concerning dairying in northwest iowa

The poultry industry has done a lot of disease response planning, but manure disposal may be a missing link for backyard flock owners. Biosecurity procedures, which are designed to keep diseases out of flocks, have become a particularly pressing concern since last year’s avian influenza outbreak killed or forced the depopulation of 48 million birds, mostly in Iowa and Minnesota.

Moving manure can easily spread diseases if flock owners do not follow best management practices (BMP) since fomites can carry germs or parasites across backyard fences and transfer them from one individual to another. Manure and bedding dust, feather pieces and moisture droplets can all be fomites.

Researchers cannot pinpoint manure handling as a way the disease spreads, but researchers in Iowa are currently doing research to answer that question.

One of the most important biosecurity steps backyard flock owners can do when handling manure is to keep their bedding dry and keep their manure-handling tools clean. Washing shovels, bucket and wheelbarrows after each use and rinsing with a disinfectant is a primary BMP. Just spraying a disinfectant on a dirty wheelbarrow tire won’t accomplish anything. You cannot disinfect manure in your coop.

Most disinfectants need 10 minutes to do their work, so let the tools dry completely before you use them again. Getting disinfectant on every surface of equipment can be challenging. I suggest making it a two-step process, wash the organic material off the tool completely and then spray the disinfectant all in one location and then store and let the tools and equipment dry elsewhere- even if it just the other corner of the storeroom.

Diseases don’t just linger on the outside of shovels, rakes and wheelbarrows. Make sure you wash and disinfect your chore boots and let them dry. Have a “clean-line” were you set down and change from street shoes to chore shoes or put on boots. Also make sure your chore clothes- jean, shirts, coats and gloves are routinely washed and remain exclusively used to do chores. Wearing your chore clothes to see someone else’s birds is a direct pipeline to vector disease.

Sanitizing wipes are handy for wiping down anything coming into your coop. While new equipment should always be washed before using, a quick wipe of a feed sack before opening it can prevent a transfer from what was left there by someone else.

Coming back to manure again, proper composting destroys pathogens and reduces fly problems. Ideally, procedures for composting should be part of every bird-owners biosecurity plan. Make sure that your birds cannot get to your compost pile.

I have been a promoter of “chicken tractors” for many years and one of the big reasons is the covered run. Any feces from local wild birds or migratory water-fowl, hangs up on the screen over your birds and dries. Once the moisture is gone, bacteria and viruses soon die.

For more information contact your local Extension office. In Tarrant County the office is located at 200 Taylor St in Fort Worth or call at 817.884.1946.

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