Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Making the Margin

Knowing where you are at will help you know where you are going....
 Many folks question me regarding commercial poultry production and its true sustainability.  Many of the farms I work with are family owned yet have grown over the course of 60-100 years of operation.  At the same time I work with folks with smaller flocks, who sell directly to their customers.  In each case for me to be economically sustainable is where a farm pushes past break-even for a sustained period of time.  Enough so to reach the goals of the farm.  So, each farm can make it if they: 1) understand their cost structures 2) prices their products properly for the market they are trying for, and 3) never invests more than what they are getting out of the system unless they wish to.  This point of diminishing return (MR=MC) at times hurts many farms regardless of size.  So, by buying inputs in bulk, trucking only with full loads, and moving high volumes of product works for some.  Keeping costs to a minimum, producing a product that will sell in certain markets works with others.  Each system fulfills the needs of the market, and brings a return to the farm.  Whichever system employed, it takes keeping great production & financial records to know where you are at all times.  And in a highly diversified market each system is needed to fulfill the demand of their customers.

Monday, June 22, 2015

Keeping it Clean

The C is more important than the D

When we speak of biosecurity, many folks immediately jump to disinfectants, application methods, and types of surfaces you have to C&D (clean and disinfect).  But if a surface is not clean first, there is no hope of disinfecting well, especially if the surface is really dirty.  To make your disinfectant work better, be sure to clean the item you are trying to disinfect. 
Dry clean and then wash in soap and water if possible.  The soap and scrubbing action will remove many of the germs that you wish to kill.  With a clean surface any remaining germs will be killed with the proper disinfectant.  So if I have to choose, I would pick hot water and soap over just a disinfectant on a very dirty boot.  Contact time and scrubbing will help with removing dirt from most surfaces.  I carry liquid soap, water and a shallow pan in order to wash my rubber boots from my car every time a make a visit to a poultry farm.  I always follow up with a spray of disinfectant to finish the job.  When washing hands, scrub with soap and water then use a gel to sanitize.

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Make it FIT: Using Personal Protective Equipment

Proper use is needed to protect YOU
All poultry workers who work in hazardous areas should consider using Personal Protective Equipment (PPE).  PPE that is not properly sized or tested on the individual prior to entering a hazardous area could jeopardize the health and safety of that worker.  Consider "FIT" testing all equipment prior to entering the hazard zone.  Respirators need to be sized for the face used.  Equipment that is too small or large could pose a leak hazard.  Clean shaven faces will provide the best seal for respiratory protective equipment.  Disposable respirators may have a limit on time of use.  Consult manufacture and OSHA guidance toward use of these pieces of equipment.
Source: Moldex

When deciding of disposable clothing, consider upsizing to a larger size to ensure freedom of movement.  Trimming or rolling sleeves and pant legs will assist smaller persons in fitting into their equipment.  Consider using a "Valet" to assist in donning PPE that may need to be taped down around gloves, boots or other equipment.  Choose garments for the type of protection you need, considering that comfort may be compromised in high level protective clothing. 

Consider using layers, especially with gloves to provide protection from tearing or ripping. A protective glove against abrasion may cover a rubber glove that protects against biological hazards.  Be sure to size gloves to prevent cramping or tears.  Test wear gloves by tying around your wrist to see if you are allergic to latex, and consider other materials should you develop skin irritation.  Disposable footwear may tear in certain poultry environments.  Consider washable footwear that can take these irregular surfaces.

Hard hats and bump hats should be worn in areas where falling objects are possible, as well as moving equipment or objects in line of travel of the head.  These hats should be adjusted so that momentary stooping will not cause the hat to fall off.  Check suspension systems in the hat for proper operation.

Eye protection needs to be robust enough for the perceived hazards.  Flying objects such as grinder slag or wood chips in a mill may require full face protection in addition to protection surrounding the eye.  Consider eye protective equipment with seals for areas of high contamination.

PPE does not require a huge outlay to protect, so long as the chosen equipment is the right type for the job and is properly fitted.  Be safe, and check before donning.

Monday, April 27, 2015

Vectors and Fomites keeping - both at bay

What you carry is important - Keep It Clean

Source: Wikipedia
When we think of biosecurity on poultry farms we mostly think of live animals that could transmit a disease to our flocks.  These are "Vectors" that are carriers of different diseases that may not affect them but could bring losses to your farm.  Wild birds, rodents and wild mammals can harbor or transmit diseases to birds.  It is also the reason most poultry farms are single species so that chickens will not spread diseases to turkeys, and ducks to pretty much the other two.

A "Fomite" on the other hand is a inanimate object that can also transfer diseases mechanically.  Shoes and boots, tools and other equipment moved from house to house also needs to be cleaned and disinfected in order to keep infections to a minimum.  Even flies by the nature of their travels are considered fomites as the move from manure to bird.  These too should be limited on the farm as much as possible.

To to control the first thing to do is to clean the object of any obvious dirt, grime and manure.  Secondly, use a good disinfectant to reduce further any lingering viruses and bacteria remaining on the clean object.  A log sheet should be kept for farm
equipment that is loaned out to other farms or is rented to keep a trail of exposure to a minimum.  And a local car wash is a farmers friend as trucks move from farm to farm.  By staying on top of this task, you help reduce your chance of an exposure to disease.

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Making Easter eggs and enjoying it...

Being Safe while enjoying the real thing

Easter is a time for most to come together and share a meal with those we care for.  I give thanks at this time for many things, but I also thank those who produce the food I eat.  Whether large or small, farmers do feed most of us.  So if you are lucky enough to have birds in your care and production enough to share, thank you!

I still like to boil eggs for Easter.  Dyeing eggs is one fun thing a family can do, and there are many ways to color eggs.   I prefer to use the off stove method of cooking eggs.  Cover eggs in water till at least an inch covers the eggs.  Bring these to just a boil, and then cover and take off the heat to stand for 10-12 minutes.  A little longer for larger eggs, a little less for smaller eggs.  Use older eggs, as it makes them easier to peel.  For dye I have used the box kits, food dye for cake making, along with yellow onion skins, beet juice, and other veggie pigments.  As long as the dyes are edible, they can be used.  A little vinegar helps with the staining process, and setting the color.  For those in a pinch, buy brown eggs or eggs from a farm with different colored breeds.  These naturally pigmented eggs will also be a hit on the bunny trail.

If you are going to hunt with real eggs away from home, the secret is the cooler and ice packs you carry the eggs in.  This will keep the eggs cold.  Keep eggs in their cartons and in the cooler until just before the kids are to hunt for eggs.  We did this in the morning while it was still cool, and then pop the real eggs back in the cooler just after the kids have found them.  Any eggs with broken shells should be thrown away.  

Eggs are a versatile food. I always enjoy egg salad sandwiches after Easter with my pigmented hard cooked eggs.  Folks around the lunch table would marvel at what I am eating, but are envious when they try my egg salad with spicy brown mustard and a touch of red onion for crunch.  Enjoy.

Friday, February 13, 2015

Keeping Warm Thoughts in Cold Weather

Taking Precautions When the Forecast is South of Freezing.

A reminder to all poultry and livestock caretakers and food processors to monitor building and other environmental spaces that would be sensitive to cold. 

  • Temporary windbreaks surrounding nursery areas should be considered if in high wind velocity area.  Smaller animals are more temperature sensitive.  Heat Lamps and other hanging heaters should be hung by a chain or cable to prevent falling into bedding.
  •  Water meters should be checked closely to spot broken or plugged (frozen) plumbing. 
  • Product refrigeration equipment needs to be checked to ensure continued operation even when exposed to outdoor conditions if product needs to be cooled. 
  •  Rod conveyors and other non-heated areas of egg farms should be cleared at the end of day to eliminate thermal checks. 
  • Diesel supplies on farm should also be checked for jelly formation, most especially backup generators and tractors.  
  • Heaters, clothing, hand warmers, and other safety equipment for workers should be considered in areas with frostbite exposure warnings
  •  Product holding areas should be monitored so that product awaiting processing is kept at optimal temperatures. 
  • For small flock enclosures partial wrapping with plastic film may help prevent wind from penetrating the coop.  Be sure adequate ventilation takes place after the wrap.  Loose hay and straw may help birds survive cold environments by burying themselves partially into the bedding. 

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

On-Farm Biosecurity a Layered Approach

Attitude is the prime ingredient
Graphic: G. Martin
With cooler weather we begin to close housing and reduce ventilation levels. This allows moisture to build up in houses, and sickness can ensue if you don’t double your efforts in biosecurity. The key to becoming a bio-secure location is adopting an attitude of following good biosecurity protocols; every time, every day on the farm. Cutting corners or simply not following a biosecurity protocols opens up an opportunity for disease to invade your location.

To have a good biosecurity program, think about a layered approach. I like to define that as Physical, Chemical and Logical layers to the program. Physical barriers like personal protective equipment (PPE) and solid housing helps keep us from being a vector to flocks we visit. Chemical barriers include detergents and germicides that assist in cleaning and disinfection that help us reduce the chance of a fomite (inanimate objects) from spreading disease on the farm. Logical barriers are steps we take to help partition and reduce exposure time to birds. So the old adage of “visit young animals to oldest animals, sick animals last” will still work for a good biosecurity program.

As with any poultry management program, good documentation is an important part to never pass up on. To log exposures to your flock, document all visitors to your location. Small farms can use a “guest book” to help log visitors. This will give you a running history over time since some diseases take time to develop from exposure. Log all shared equipment that enters your housing as well. This is very important for farms that are not cleaning each brood in meat type birds. Biosecurity is up to you.