The Value of Compartmentalization for Poultry

By Lorraine Stevenson-Hall, Biosecurity & Stakeholder Relations Lead

Key points:

  • Zoning is based on geographic regions implemented in order to contain disease
  • Compartmentalization is based on risk related to biosecurity and husbandry practices
  • Compartments can give importing countries assurance of animal health status

Zoning and compartmentalization are tools to establish and maintain groups of animals with a specific health status for the purposes of international trade and disease prevention or control1. While zoning and compartmentalization have similar purposes, a key difference is that zones are designated geographic areas established once disease is detected to control movements and prevent spread. The World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE) recognition of compartments however, is based on management practices and biosecurity2.

As the body that allows compartments, the OIE says the fundamental requirement is the implementation and documentation of management and biosecurity measures to create a functional separation of disease-free herds or flocks. For exporting countries, compartmentalization is aimed to provide international trading partners with confidence in the health status of animals, helping to ensure business continuity.

A compartment is a sub population of animals defined primarily by biosecurity and management practices, which are implemented as if the disease is present. A compartment is a closed network of common management practices and biosecurity measures. Compartments are designated based on risk related to management and biosecurity practices, not geographic location or proximity to the infected premises. For this reason, disease-free compartments can exist within a zone as well as cross over to the outside of a zone.

A private company initiates and manages their status as a compartment, but extensive third-party validation is required. With the continued international threat of Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza, Cobb-Vantress Inc., a major poultry breeding company, achieved certification as an Avian Influenza Clean Compartment from U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Poultry Improvement Plan (NPIP)3. The certification required comprehensive auditing of the company’s U.S. based pure-line facilities, including pedigree and great-grandparent farms, feed mills and hatcheries. The planning, preparation and auditing process completed in 2019 took over two years, but it means that Cobb-Vantress has a solid risk management strategy to ensure minimal trade disruption in the case of an AI outbreak.

Tim Nelson, Chief Innovation Officer at Farm Health Guardian, recently reported that a leading broiler company in the United Kingdom affected by the current Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza (HPAI) outbreaks is losing £15,000 per week (approximately $24,000 CAD) because they are banned from exporting product. That’s £60,000 per month or $95,500 CAD! No company farms have actually been infected with HPAI but the 10 km quarantine zones require movement permits and that they cease exporting until the quarantine zones in which their production is based are lifted.

If compartmentalization were in place for this company, would they have avoided quarantine and been able to continue with normal operations, including exporting? It’s quite possible that the strict biosecurity, vigilant health monitoring and flock management required of compartmentalization may have helped minimize the business disruption and resulting economic fallout.

Farm Health Guardian can help businesses improve company wide biosecurity practices and meet compartmentalization standards. To learn more, visit