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Bio-Security Controls in Poultry Farms is Making Economic Sense
Monday, 19 August, 2019, 08 : 00 AM [IST]
Akhilesh Babu
The Indian poultry sector has come a long way from backyard farming to the most modern hatcheries and breeding farms. The credit goes to Banda Venkateswara Rao, known as ‘father of Indian poultry sector’ who in 1971 started Venkateswara Hatcheries which went on to become one of the largest and most integrated poultry groups in the world. Soon, several modern poultry firms have come up and have changed the dynamics of the sector.

Thanks to modern day farming practices, the poultry sector contributes about 1% of the total GDP, growing at a healthy rate of 8 to 10%. As per ICRA, the total broiler meat market size is over Rs 730 billion in terms of retail price (within 4.25 kg per capita meat consumption) and table egg market size is Rs 420 billion (88 billion egg production). India ranks third in egg production and fifth in broiler production.

Considering the humongous size of the market, many challenges exist, the first one being bio-security. With increased trade within the country and outside, the movement of birds, broiler and eggs has exponentially increased, exposing to all kinds of risks. As we all know, pests cut across boundaries and cause havoc many a times and it is for this reason bio-security gets prime place in the growth of the sector.

Integrated bio-security measures on-site
Realising its importance, poultry farms have integrated bio-security measures on-site. There is a direct co-relation between bio-security measures and productivity. In fact, there are guidelines issued by the government for its own farms and that of the private sector on how to improve efficiencies and productivity through bio-security control. Accordingly, the poultry sector has been taking care of its birds as otherwise it would adversely impact the business. Right from the beginning of setting up of the farm, bio-security principles come into play. Operational bio-security measures are based on three principles – a) isolation b) traffic control and c) sanitation.

There is a misinformation campaign by certain non-governmental organisations that the poultry farms are crammed places for birds. In total contrast to the campaign, the organised poultry sector has a checklist – avoiding overcrowding to keep the birds stress- free; appropriate ventilation and temperature to keep the environment ambient; cleanliness; good quality feed; and potable drinking water.

In sync with climatic conditions
The modern poultry farms in India are designed and located in areas, which have minimum risk to the birds and provide ample ventilation and access to sunlight. Interestingly, the Indian farmer is well aware of the climatic conditions and the adaptability of the birds. For instance, if the farm is located in a cold region, the farm locates the long axis of the poultry unit in a north-south direction and if it is hot and humid region, then the long axis is in the east-west direction. The farms have restricted entry for visitors, while the employees have to follow hygienic practices such that the birds do not fall prey to any viral influence.

To keep at bay Avian Influenza, the poultry farms have secure perimeters, keeping the poultry houses locked. Not just that, the staff entering poultry farms wears clothing separate from those worn off the farm. In case there is any dead bird, the staff disposes it off on a daily basis in an approved method. The coops are kept clean and disinfected before and after use, essential for good practices and healthy growth of the birds. Most farms have a strong vector control programme for insects, mammalian and avian vectors.

Almost all poultry sheds are provided with boot dips (footbaths) at entrance and exit points. Effective cleaning and disinfection is critical aspect of bio-security for disease control and Indian farms have been following this religiously. The feeding pans and drinking equipment used in the caged area are cleaned daily. The farmers know pretty well that keeping the cages clean means prevention of pathogens from accumulating and causing health problems. Cages are disinfected regularly. There are several dos and don’ts the farms follow as the farmers are fully aware that poultry farming is their livelihood.

The poultry farms in India have invested substantially in infrastructure, rearing different species separately and following all-in all-out system, dispelling the misinformation campaign by NGOs on how birds are ‘dumped’ together. The poultry staff skilled or unskilled goes through the guidelines of modern day poultry farming religiously as higher productivity is linked to onsite practices. Certainly, there is room for improvement and the farming community is constantly updating itself with practices, which are conducive to Indian environment.

(The author is president, Karnataka Poultry Farmers & Breeders Association (KPFBA), and MD, Komarla Group, Bengaluru)
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