Hygiene in the poultry house means clean and fresh drinking water

18 oktober 2017

Hygiene in the poultry house should start with clean and fresh drinking water.

Hygiene is very important in poultry houses. Especially when diseases such as bird flu, like the H5N8 virus and other hazards are going around. Poultry professionals often look at the ‘simple’ safety precautions to prevent these diseases affecting their poultry. These precautions usually concern feed, visitors on the property and protective clothing. However, water can also be a hazard and is very often overlooked, as this is all ‘already taken care off’ in the eyes of the poultry professional.

Water is the most widely chemical compound in the world, which in its natural state, is one of the purest compounds known. However, water supplies are dynamic and always changing. Floods, droughts, septic systems, agriculture and industry within an area, the depth of the well, the rock formations the water runs through in the well, are all factors which influence the water supply and therefore the chemical outlines of the water.

The importance of a clean, safe water supply in regards to the health and performance of the flock is many times underestimated. Many factors affect the performance and health of the poultry flock, but most of them, (if not all) are not as important as water. A clean safe and fresh water supply is a necessity if each flock is to perform at its best.

Many commercial poultry farms have switched to closed drinking systems to reduce the risk of in-house contamination from dust, feed, feathers, bedding material and litter. But closed systems tend to put the water supply out of the minds of the poultry professionals. In the past regular cleaning of the open-water type sources was a constant reminder of how dirty the drinking water could get. But with the closed drinking systems you just don’t see it anymore. That doesn’t mean however that the water cannot be contaminated with bacteria, fungi, minerals and biofilm that thrive in a slow-moving nutrient-rich water supply.

If the water is safe or unsafe depends on the substances that are dissolved in the water, such as phosphorus, sulphates, nitrates, sodium, chloride and so on. These substances determine the water’s taste, hardness, sediment content and PH and therewith if the water is safe enough for the poultry flock.

Another big problem in closed drinking systems can be biofilm. Regular acids will not dissolve and cut through the biofilm, which means severe measures need to be taken when having a biofilm problem.

Biofilm is a complex community of bacteria, fungi and algae encased in an extracellular polysaccharide and other organic contaminants attached to a surface. In other words, biofilm is slime. It is a breeding ground in which microorganisms can easily multiply. The biofilm then protects the microorganisms from anti-bacterial agents. In nipple drinker systems, such as those installed in many poultry houses, the water is slow-flowing and therewith biofilm development is very rapidly. Also too warm water can be a feeding ground for biofilm and bacteria to grow faster. It is therefore very important to be aware of biofilm up build as soon as it starts and handle accordingly to keep it away. But how?

One of the easiest ways to keep the water system clean is routine flushing. In addition to routine flushing, the system should also be flushed after any use of the medicator as this helps wash away potential food sources for bacteria and other organisms.

Furthermore a biofilm sensor can be used. A biofilm sensor can detect biofilm and sediment build up in an early stage, making it possible for the poultry professional to flush the drinking lines as soon as the biofilm starts to grow.

It is also important to clean the drinking system thoroughly and especially between flocks. The water supply needs to be kept sanitized. Last but not least, when running additives, always flush the lines immediately after to prevent bacteria growing on the left over ‘feed’.  These additives often include flavored gelatin mixes, vitamins, sugar water, stabilizers, antibiotics and so on. These namely sweet additives are a food source for the biofilm.

Microbial growth is promoted by this food supply and can decrease effectiveness of medications and vaccines that are given through the drinking lines. All this can result in poor feed conversion and increased mortality, carcass downgrades, and condemnations. Once biofilm is there, it can make it much more difficult to clean the drinking system and also to keep it clean. Even when you remove the biofilm, it can return in as little as two or three days. So therefore it is important to keep biofilm away from the poultry house.

To regularly flush the drinking lines and keep biofilm away you can use an automatic flushing system that works on sensors which are placed in the drinking lines. These sensors measure the water temperature of the drinking lines as well as the biofilm build up. As soon as there is an abnormality in the set parameters, the flush computer receives a signal to automatically flush the drinking lines.

Hygienic water in the poultry house is very important as it means as clean and fresh as possible drinking water for the poultry.  An important factor that is often overlooked but, with the right precautions can be easily taken care of.