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Published on Sept. 15, 2021

Biosecurity and Health: A Conversation with Dr. Marion Garcia

Dr. Marion Garcia is the lead for Hybrid customer veterinary support in the USA and has a wealth of experience in the turkey industry. This Q&A explores some key takeaways for growers looking to develop their farm’s biosecurity program and learn more about the connection between biosecurity and health.

What areas of biosecurity do you see are most often overlooked?

To put a slightly different spin on the answer, I would say the one area that’s looked at too much is people movement. I think we're pretty good at tracking people, asking people to shower and change clothes and understand clean and dirty zones. We're very good at all of that, but we tend to forget about the rodents who find a way into the barns. Wild birds love to nest underneath the eaves. Insects can invade and get into the feed. If and when birds, rodents, and insects get in, they can infect our birds.

I think that we, as an industry, are focused primarily on people and then on equipment as a close second. After that, we forget about the other pathogen carriers that are part of biosecurity best practices. If you look at the risk factor of someone bringing a cell phone into the barn versus a gap where a rodent can get in, #2 is a much bigger risk than #1. So, we need to remember that biosecurity is about a whole system, rather than just tracking people and their movements.

How can turkey growers better safeguard their farm? What are the areas to look at?

A great place to start is to set aside once a week where growers walk around the outside of their barns and take a critical look. Ask yourself, “Where are my gaps? Where could something get in? Is that a hole in the curtain? Or are those weeds too close to the barn? Let’s take a look under the rafters.” Just start doing this once a week and you will have a much better understanding of your gaps. Once you know where the weak areas are, you can create a plan to make improvements.

What's the connection between biosecurity and health of the flock?

It’s all about population health. When one child goes to school with a cold, likely there will be transmission and the rest of the class can get sick. Another part of biosecurity connected to health is that a little bit of preventative maintenance can go a long way. You can wait until there are obvious health issues in the barn that need to be fixed, but this is a more reactive approach. Strong biosecurity programs with attention to detail save us from having to fix things that are already broken. When you bring your car in for an oil change and tire rotation, these are regularly scheduled appointments that are important to avoiding breakdowns and long-term issues. Biosecurity is much like this kind of regular, preventative maintenance for overall better health.

What is the most enjoyable or rewarding aspect of being a vet?

What I love about being a vet is also what I love about being a turkey vet: the people. Farmers are very pragmatic, hardworking people. They ask tough questions, which I appreciate. I like to think of how Missouri is the “Show me” State. Their mentality is, “don’t just tell me, show me how this is going to work.” I love being around those kinds of people who challenge me to examine what I take as truisms and learn a little bit every day. And when our customers get a good flock, it's just a beautiful thing to see.

Is there anything else you’d like turkey growers out there to know?

I encourage everyone to work hand in hand with their vet because we bring a different dimension to the mix. Along with the growers’ great management practices, we can add a little bit of perspective to help them get better. By working with your vets, you can have in-depth conversations, challenge each other, and get better results in the end.

To learn more about biosecurity, explore our online resources.

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