Development and implementation of a risk assessment tool for broiler farm biosecurity and a health intervention plan in the Netherlands, Greece, and Cyprus

Preventing pathogens from entering and spreading on farms is the first step in reducing health problems. For this study a BiosEcurity Assessment Tool was developed to identify strengths and weaknesses in biosecurity on broiler farms, which was used as a starting point to formulate tailor-made health plans to improve broiler health and reduce antimicrobial use. Farms were divided into 3 separate areas according to associated biosecurity risk; high disease risk external areas (red zone), medium risk service areas (orange zone), and the clean and highly secure access-restricted green zone. In the Netherlands, Cyprus, and Greece, 13, 15, and 7 broiler houses were monitored for 4 production cycles (2 preintervention and 2 postintervention cycles). At the start of the study the BiosEcurity Assessment Tool assessment was performed and a health plan was made in consultation with the veterinarian. After the second cycle a start was made with the implementation of the health plan. Overall, the biosecurity level in the green and orange zones were significantly higher in the Netherlands compared to Greece and Cyprus, but there was no difference for the red zone or the transition zones between the countries. The interventions in the health plans were mostly directed towards those measures that could be implemented in the short term and with low costs in the green zone. In Cyprus a decrease in antimicrobial use was found postintervention. This was not the case in Greece and the Netherlands. In Cyprus and Greece footpad lesion improved after interventions were implemented, although this may have been an effect of season. In Dutch farms no improvement was detected, but both antimicrobial use and footpad lesions were lower at the start of the study compared to Cypriot and Greek farms. In conclusion, the BEAT shows to be a promising tool to assess biosecurity risks on broiler farms. The biosecurity assessment in combination with the farm specific health plans could contribute to antimicrobial reduction on broiler farms.

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