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Lotta Berg: Poultry Emergency Euthanasia


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Outbreaks of animal diseases are well documented throughout modern history. Major outbreaks have damaging consequences for animal welfare, for the industry and often cause major disruptions in food supply, especially within the poultry industry. In order to avoid these consequences, killing methods and techniques have been developed to kill poultry on farm, as well as development dedicated emergency plans, guidelines, procedures to shoulder efforts to reduce and prevent large-scale outbreaks.

Despite all these efforts in the past, outbreaks continue to occur. New, integrated methods for culling and disposal must be developed to combat outbreaks that cannot be mitigated or prevented by vaccination. These methods should be capable of supporting large-scale, quick culling campaigns and cadaver disposals without further spreading of diseases, transfer to humans, or putting a liability on the environment. In the EU, although Regulation 1099/2009 covers culling operations, the present techniques often are not compliant, or are often applied in an improper way.

On March 17, 2014, Dr. Lotta Berg, one of Europe’s leading experts in this field and Swedens' representative within the European Food Safety Authority EFSA, presented at Neiker Tecnalia in Victoria-Gasteiz (Spain) her vision on emergency response, referring to the EU Directive EU 1099/2009. She covered in her presentation the following subjects:

• Different types of poultry and poultry production
• Reasons for euthanasia
• Large‐scale emergencies
• Contingency planning
• Monitoring animal welfare at on‐farm killing
• Critical points, follow‐up and reporting
• Different methods in practice
• Non‐emergency euthanasia

Dr. Berg concluded in her presentation that the Anoxia technique (N2 gas foam) is applicable for killing poultry on small-, medium- and large-scale poultry operations.

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Lotta Berg: Poultry Emergency Euthanasia

  1. 1. 17/03/2014 1 Lotta Berg Dept. of Animal Environment and Health Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, Skara Lotta Berg Dept. of Animal Environment and Health Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, Skara Presentation given at Neiker, Vitoria Gasteiz, Spain, March 17th 2014 Background Veterinarian Researcher Teacher Previously: Veterinary Officer at the Swedish Board of Agriculture (National Competent Authority for animal health and welfare) Contact Point 1099/2009 (EU Regulation) Structure of this presentation Different types of poultry and poultry production Reasons for euthanasia Large scale emergencies Contingency planning Monitoring animal welfare at on farm killing Critical points, follow up and reporting Different methods in practice Non emergency euthanasia Presentation Pdf hand outs will be available afterwards. Without some of the pictures… Photos from many different countries.
  2. 2. 17/03/2014 2 Introduction Different types of poultry Broilers, laying hens, turkeys, ducks, geese Different behaviour Different biology Different housing systems Different methods of euthanasia? Biology and behaviour Body size and conformation Flying? Running? Sensitive to carbon dioxide? … Today’s presentation will focus on layers and broilers, but often relevant also to other types of poultry. Reasons for euthanasia Planned Unwanted dayold chicks (layer males, malformed chicks) End of lay hens (entire flocks) Surplus animals (e.g. breeding males in broiler breeder flocks) Emergencies Single sick or injured birds Entire flocks suffering from disease Entire flocks suffering from transmissible, epidemic/zoonotic disease (e.g. Newcastle, Avian Influenza) Single birds Single birds Most important: locate and euthanize How? Neck dislocation Preferably after stunning Not too many animals Large scale emergencies Non planned Often large number of birds Potential risk of spreading the disease Disease control and eradication purposes
  3. 3. 17/03/2014 3 Prevention! Feed and water Rodents and wild birds Poultry bought Contact with other flocks Visitors Veterinarians Advisors Neighbours … Owner/Farmer/Staff Transport, equipment Wind … Biosecurity Rodent and wild bird control Visitor control Farmer/staff control Poultry control (surveillance, sampling) Contingency planning Is it possible to plan for the unexpected? Yes – possible and absolutely necessary! Plans for emergency killing of whole flocks, i.e. depopulation Flocks infected and diagnosed with a specific disease Flocks with an undiagnosed disease Pre emptive culling Welfare culling (Culling of flocks to avoid over crowding, when slaughter is not an option and running out of feed…) Contingency planning Conditions will vary! Reason for killing How urgent? Zoonosis? (Worker’s safety) Number of birds Age of the birds Type of birds Type of housing Methods available Staff available Cost … Having just one “master plan” is not enough! Species and method specific standard operating procedures (SOP:s) are necessary. Contingency planning Contingency planning is an overall responsibility of the authorities. Also relevant at the farm level. Prepare for the unexpected!
  4. 4. 17/03/2014 4 Contingency planning People involved As few as possible if dealing with a zoonosis As little human bird contact as possible if a zoonosis People available Who has relevant knowledge? Who is paying…? Farmer, veterinarian, staff Responsibilities Who is in charge? At the central/regional level: Competent authorities Who makes decisions on what method to apply, how to do it and when? At the farm: Again – who makes decisions? Who is supervising biosecurity and animal welfare? Commercial companies specialising in such operations? Make sure to settle an agreement on responsibilities Media attention – part of the contingency planning Ethical issues Newspaper coverage TV cameras… Discussions in social media Who should handle this discussion? The individual farmer? The authorities? Someone else? Animal Welfare considerations The main task is always to prevent further spread of disease (to humans or animals). Biosecurity Speed is often essential Appropriately trained staff available? Relevant equipment available? Occupational hazards? Stressful both for the farmer and official staff Animal welfare is an inherent aspect Decision making tree? One possibility – just an example: …and so on… Laying hens Infected <50 birds 50 5000 birds Status unknown Wait for test results Non infected >5000 birds Carbon dioxide Animal Welfare considerations EU legislation 1099/2009 Various guidelines OIE: “Methods applied should result in immediate death or immediate loss of consciousness lasting until death. When loss of consciousness is not immediate, the induction of unconsciousness should be the least aversive possible to the animal.”
  5. 5. 17/03/2014 5 Animal Welfare considerations Whenever possible: use methods that are the same as, or similar to, methods used for standard on farm killing of sick or injured birds or flocks unfit for slaughter. Because: equipment is readily available, staff experienced and knowledgeable. Not always possible, because of the numbers involved. Animal Welfare considerations Animal welfare aspects should be included in contingency planning and emergency preparedness: Organisation Training Reporting Follow up Detailed provisions on choice of method depending on species, number etc Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) for each method. Animal Welfare considerations The entire depopulation operation must be monitored from an animal welfare point of view. ‘Lessons learned’ should be applied in the future. Killing large numbers of animals is not an easy task, mentally… For large scale operations Staff rotation and counselling Farmer participation?? Police Media On farm Animal Welfare monitoring OIE Terrestrial Animal Health Code: Official veterinarian in charge OV appoints personnel and provides guidance At each farm: Specialist team, with a team leader and including a veterinarian (or with constant access to veterinary advice). Team leader and veterinarian must have animal welfare assessment competence.
  6. 6. 17/03/2014 6 On farm Animal Welfare monitoring EU Regulation 1099/2009 Competent authority is responsible for depopulation for disease control Shall establish an action plan to ensure compliance with animal welfare regulation. Exceptional circumstances? Human health at risk? Substantial delay? Competent authorities can allow for derogations, on a case by case basis. Does not substitute proper planning! On farm Animal Welfare monitoring Public demand for transparency EU requirement: reports on depopulation should be made public online. Reason for depopulation Number of animals Species Methods used Any difficulties? Solutions? Monitoring “Observe and check the progress or quality of (something) over a period in time, keep under systematic review” Oxford Dictionary Monitoring Not just watching and keeping records – Taking relevant corrective action when necessary Learning from current and previous difficulties Authority to act! Critical Points Animal handling prior to killing Where will the animals be killed? Stun quality Effectiveness of the method used to render the birds unconscious and dead Confirmation of death Prior to carcass disposal Critical Points Everybody involved should know their roles and responsibilities Everybody should participate in monitoring… But it is recommended to have a specific person in charge of overall monitoring of animal welfare on site. This person must have knowledge about Animal behaviour, physiology, signs of pain and suffering, etcetera.
  7. 7. 17/03/2014 7 Practical aspects in general Animal handling prior to killing Animals should be handled as little as possible Staff should know how to handle animals Personal protective clothing No unnecessary disturbance from the media etc. Practical aspects in general Verify that the necessary equipment for stunning and killing is functioning. Monitor stun/kill quality frequently Cleaning and maintenance, when necessary Verify gas concentration when relevant Practical aspects in general Verify death, for each individual bird Large numbers, great haste… Systematic approach Combination of different indicators Absence of heartbeat Cessation of respiration Absence of movement over a longer period Presence of rigor mortis Checklists To be developed by authorities, advisory/extension services or producers’ organizations. Methods for on farm depopulation Aspects to consider, for example: Reason for killing How urgent? Zoonosis? (Worker’s safety) Biosecurity Number of birds Age of the birds Type of birds Type of housing House location and surroundings Owner attitude Methods available Staff available Cost …
  8. 8. 17/03/2014 8 Barbiturate injections For veterinary use only Useful for testing of individual birds, where physical trauma is detrimental and gas too time consuming. Very time consuming for larger numbers of birds. Difficult to inject correctly: Abdominal injection: birds do not have an abdomen (!). But – birds have air sacks. Intravenous injections: requires training, applicable mainly for larger species. Cervical dislocation Neck dislocation by stretching and wringing (torsion) the neck, so that the spinal column vertebrae are properly separated (i.e. dislocated). When properly carried out, the blood vessels will rupture, and the bird will bleed under the skin. Ensure proper separation. Manually: no more than 70 birds per person/day Manually: Bird weight maximum 3 kg Cervical dislocation Not really a stunning method Preferable to stun the birds first (usually by a blow to the head) Stick/ truncheon
  9. 9. 17/03/2014 9 Mechanical neck dislocation: Broiler breeders Remember – do not just break/crush the neck – stretching and torsion is important. Mechanical neck dislocation: Geese “Home built” tool for assisting neck dislocation in geese. Remember stretching plus torsion. Blow to the head V shaped hook for neck dislocation Hard plastic stick (truncheon) for blow to the head Captive bolt gun for poultry A bolt that kills Two person operation “Cash Poultry killer” Head only electrical stunning Followed by neck dislocation Gas methods Carbon dioxide Anoxia (Nitrogen) Method of gas administration Gas in container Liquid – gas Foam – gas
  10. 10. 17/03/2014 10 Mode of action: CO2 Hypercapnia + hypoxia Lowers pH Sedative effect Heavy gas (heavier than air, will build up from the floor) Mammals and birds have chemoreceptors for CO2 It is unpleasant (aversive) to inhale CO2 Gasping, head shaking Less aversive at low concentrations: Better to start at lower concentrations and gradually increase the concentration (but still relatively rapidly). Carbon dioxide Mode of action: nitrogen Anoxia Outcompetes oxygen Odourless No chemoreceptors, not aversive. Will mix with air Difficult to contain Anoxia leads to convulsions Always a gradual process Nitrogen Method of distribution Gas, ambient temperature (CO2 in small amounts), welding gas (CO2 + argon) Liquefied gas, very cold (CO2) Dry nitrogen ice (very cold) Foam containing the gas (nitrogen) Worker’s safety. These gases are as lethal for humans and other animals as they are for poultry! Method of distribution In containers + Lower amount of gas needed. + Controlled, the dead birds are already collected. Staff has to catch the birds first. Whole house + No catching or crating of live birds needed. Minimal human live bird contact. + Dead birds are easy to collect. Higher amount of gas needed. House must be reasonably sealable Carbon dioxide in containers Small flocks. Wheelie bins or small containers. In this case, the container is filled with gas before the birds are placed in it. Carbon dioxide in containers Medium size flocks, dumpsters In this case, the container is filled with gas before the birds are placed in it.
  11. 11. 17/03/2014 11 CO2 or CO2+argon in containers In this case, birds are placed in the container before the gas enters it. Carbon dioxide whole house Medium large flocks For emergency depopulation, but also end of lay hens Commercially available Preparations Calculate the volume of the building Formula aiming at 80 % CO2: [ house volume (m3) x 1.8 x 0.80 ] Order the gas Order dumpsters for the carcasses Drill a hole in the wall and insert a permanent tube – if not already present Seal the building – but do not over seal Why aiming at 80 %? Margins! Leakage “Overkill”… The leading in tube High pressure! Better to install the tube when building the house… Seal the building Remember: heavy gas. When adding 80 % CO2, air will have to escape – do not over pressurize the building. CO2 can leak to adjacent compartments – seal properly (egg belts, manure systems etcetera) Make sure that the birds are not hit by the cold high pressure gas beam Fence off the area near the inlet. Empty the water line – freezing.
  12. 12. 17/03/2014 12 Safety Make sure that nobody is still inside the house Turn off the ventilation (not earlier!) Connect the hose and turn on the tap Beware – the equipment gets very cold. Monitor the process Snow fog Wait sufficiently long time Gas distribution time: 5 15 minutes, depending on house size. Wait at least 30 60 minutes before turning on the ventilation again. Open the doors. Wait until the CO2 has been removed from the building Remember: heavy gas: remain standing up! Inspect the result
  13. 13. 17/03/2014 13 Ensure that all birds are dead. Broilers Turkeys Nitrogen Dry ice or under compression or N2 in gas foam Truck delivery of compressed N2 (trial only). Not a heavy gas – sealing crucial. N2. Trial only! Difficult to seal commercial poultry houses enough. Difficult to achieve low enough oxygen concentration. Nitrogen in gas foam Small, medium and large farms High expansion foam filled with gas (could be any type of gas). Large bubbles that rupture when coming in contact with the birds. Makes it possible to contain the gas where it is needed, i.e. around the birds. Commercially available ( Not specifically mentioned in 1099/2009, but inert gases are allowed, and method of administration is not specified.
  14. 14. 17/03/2014 14 Equipment needed: • Disposable containers or used in the whole house. • Foam nozzles. • Compressed nitrogen • High expansion foam detergent. • Water tanks? If large amounts of water needed. • Sets of regulators and measuring equipment. N2 gas foam N2 gas foam Possible to use also in house, but not first choice. Fire fighting foam Not legal in the EU (1099/2009), but used in the US. Bubbles do not contain any specific gas (just air). Bubbles are small and will cause occlusion of the respiratory tract. Birds die from asphyxiation. Not recommended from an animal welfare point of view. Ventilation shut down Not legal in the EU (but sometimes used anyway, as a last resort). Shut ventilation down to increase ambient temperature. Birds die from hyperthermia. Very slow for birds with relatively low metabolism and in cold climates, slightly more rapid for birds with high metabolism and in hot weather. Not recommended from an animal welfare point of view! Summary For large scale operations: Whole house CO2 Nitrogen gas foam in containers (or in the house) For medium or small operations: Nitrogen foam or CO2 in containers Or manual methods… End of lay hens, which are not suitable for slaughter…
  15. 15. 17/03/2014 15 Non emergency killing of small numbers of poultry Stunning + manual neck dislocation Stunning + mechanical neck dislocation Electrical dry or waterbath stunning + bleeding Non emergency killing of large numbers of poultry Gas methods as described above. Non emergency killing of large numbers of poultry CO2 flow container / tunnel 87 • Developed by the Danish company ”Chickpulp” • Producer-owned • Catching staff included, if asked for • 3500-4000 birds/hour • End product used as mink feed • More manual handling of live birds • Difficult to sanitize the equipment. • Difficult to multiply rapidly… 88 Design Minimum 60 + 120 seconds in container, then maximum 60 sec to macerator 89 The hens become unconscius and die in the container Window for inspection on the other side. CO2 meter 90 The dead hens are transported from the container to the macerator
  16. 16. 17/03/2014 16 91 Vehicles and equipment… Everything is stored on the vehicle. Cold transport truck picks up the pulp. The vehicle brings the gas tubes, and its own diesel generator for electrical power. Hygiene, biosecurity! Further reading Berg, C., 2009. Poultry welfare problems related to avian influenza and other contagious diseases. World’s Poultry Science Journal, book of abstracts, WPSA Poultry Welfare Symposium, Cervia, Italy, 18 22 May, p70 74. Berg, C., 2012. The need for monitoring farm animal welfare during mass killing for disease eradication purposes. Animal Welfare, 21:357 361. OIE Terrestrial Animal Heath Code. Chapter 7.6. Killing of animals for disease control purposes. (In Spanish: internacionales/codigo terrestre/acceso en linea/?htmfile=chapitre_1.7.6.htm) European Union 2009. Council Regulation (EC) No 1099/2009 of September 2009 on the protection of animals at the time of killing. (In Spanish: http://eur