Management and biosecurity practices by small to medium egg producers in Scotland
Correia-Gomes, C., Henry M.K., Reeves A., and Sparks N.
Information about procedures and biosecurity practices used by small and medium egg producers (SMEPs) is scarce. Anecdotal evidence suggests that biosecurity in such enterprises may be poor, as personnel and equipment move freely between sites and this may be compounded by personnel working on commercial units who keep their own poultry.
To fill this gap in knowledge, a questionnaire was designed and implemented targeting SMEPs in Scotland. Small enterprises were defined as egg producers that have ≥50 laying hens but <350 laying hens; while medium enterprises were defined as egg producers that have ≥350 laying hens but ≤32000 laying hens. The questionnaire consisted of a total of 56 questions divided into multiple sections, covering the characteristics of the primary keeper, location of the enterprise and size of the flocks, husbandry, marketing of products and health/biosecurity.
The questionnaire was posted to 375 holdings at the beginning of March 2017 and the survey remained open until the end of May 2017. In total 90 questionnaires were received by the cut-off date of which 76 questionnaires were from SMEPs. Forty were small enterprises and 36 were medium enterprises. For three questionnaires, it was not possible to identify the enterprise type.
Differences were observed between SMEPs in terms of reported biosecurity and management practices, with medium enterprises reporting the adoption of more biosecurity measures than small enterprises. Furthermore, SMEPs behave differently from backyard poultry keepers and large commercial companies in terms of disease risk.
In conclusion, it is important to ensure that SMEPs are considered in contingency plans and disease control programmes and that engagement with them is promoted so that the uptake of relevant information, such as awareness of disease control programmes, is optimised.