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Biosecurity: Protecting Our Flocks to Sustain the Supply Chain

by Grace Kisembo

Safeguarding animal health is of paramount importance to any country’s economy and food supply. Livestock with a clean health status is an important requirement for a country to participate in global protein markets. There are a number of emerging and reemerging animal diseases of concern that may affect the adequacy of the food supply for a growing world population and have huge implications for global trade and commerce.  Unfortunately, zoonotic diseases including avian influenza keep reemerging in some specific areas of the world, causing high morbidity and mortality in poultry. In some cases, outbreaks of zoonotic disease can impact the supply chain and ultimately reduce the availability of food to consumers.

Some industries more than others still face challenges with diseases including Newcastle disease (ND), infectious bursal disease (IBD), infectious bronchitis (IBV), and infectious laryngotracheitis (ILT). In addition to the costs borne directly by protein producers, additional costs are incurred on a global level when there is a disruption in international availability of poultry meat, eggs, and/or chicks.

At Cobb, we are committed to producing and providing a safe and secure supply of poultry breeding stock to our customers around the world. Components of our biosecurity programs have been certified by independent agencies including the National Poultry Improvement Plan (NPIP under auspices of the USDA in the USA); the Poultry Health Scheme of the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA in the UK); the Food and Consumer Product Safety Authority (Netherlands); and the National Poultry Health Program of the Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock and Supply (PNSA of MAPA in Brazil). These organizations conduct regular auditing and monitoring of the health programs of our breeding operations.

Regular testing is a key to a biosecurity program that has protected our supply chain from disease outbreaks for decades. A prime example is our participation in the avian influenza clean program of the National Poultry Improvement Plan (NPIP). We are certified as Avian Influenza Clean in this national plan, and all flocks are tested for avian influenza every 3 weeks. As a certified participant, this program allows Cobb to meet the avian influenza import requirements for the majority of our trading partners.

As a global company that produces genetic stock for customers around the world, we work hard to prevent interruptions to our supply chain. Cobb has pedigree, great-grandparent, grandparent production facilities, and hatcheries strategically located around the globe. We utilize a network of more than 60 distributors to ship our products. Furthermore, we have compartmentalized our operations in Brazil, the UK, and the USA following the guidelines by the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE). These measures help ensure the security and availability of our products in the event of disease, outbreaks, and other possible interruptions to our supply chain provided there is a bilateral agreement in which the receiving country recognizes the certified compartments in the exporting country.

Strict biosecurity programs are a foundation of our risk management strategy. Our biosecurity protocols exceed the requirements of most government programs, so importing officials have a high degree of confidence in our products. Exceptional biosecurity allows us to distribute breeding stock to more than 120 countries. You can learn more about our biosecurity programs at https://www.cobb-vantress.com/en_US/biosecurity/na/english/.

An important part of the supply chain is the export process. Careful planning and documentation are fundamental to deliver a quality product to international customers without delays. Our team of export specialists follows strict biosecurity protocols and works carefully to meet the unique requirements of each country, including special paperwork and/or additional testing. To make the export process more efficient, we pioneered the use of an electronic health certification system for day-old poultry in coordination with the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). Cobb served as the first company to pilot this model in Canada and Guatemala. Since then, the program has expanded to include most countries around the world and uses partial to fully electronic processing.

There has been increased recognition of the importance of strict biosecurity practices, and we encourage every producer to focus on building and sustaining a biosecurity culture. Training farm and hatchery team members is a fundamental part of building the biosecurity culture as workers are known to be the most common source of disease transmission. Chick delivery drivers also adhere to our biosecurity protocols, allowing the delivery of products to customers in our domestic markets without the concern of disease. There is also a zero-tolerance policy in place for all team members to prevent direct contact or interaction with poultry outside the production facility. This is by far one of the most important principles of biosecurity.

In this integrated and dependent world, a strict biosecurity program is integral to preventing economic and supply chain disasters arising from livestock disease. Upon realizing the dangers and risks of poultry diseases in commercial poultry production systems, producers have worked to understand the cost-benefit ratio of implementing and maintaining an effective biosecurity program.

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