AVI Africa is an annual highlight on the calendar for the poultry industry and this year was no exception. It was once again held at the Emperors Palace from 12 to 13 June. The three-day event is the ideal opportunity for role-players to network and discuss burning topics affecting the industry. The exhibition hall also gave delegates the perfect platform for staying up to date with the latest products and service for the poultry and related industries.

Listeria, avian influenza and dumping

Topics such as Listeria, avian influenza and chicken dumping currently impacting the poultry industry were discussed in detail at the congress. Listeria was a predominant focus of many of the sessions due to the recent outbreak that has, to date, killed 208 people. This is according to Deléne Boshoff, a specialist in food safety, who discussed hygienic practices to reduce Listeria monocytogenes in processing facilities.

What makes Listeria monocytogenes different from other pathogens is that it thrives in cold and wet conditions and also has a high salt tolerance, said Boshoff. For this reason, it is especially important to keep floors and drains in a poultry processing facility dry and clean. The workflow must also follow a clear procedure from dirty to clean.

This means that the dirtiest part of the processing must start at one end of the facility and, as the process moves along, must end in the cleanest part of the process. She also emphasised the fact that all clearing should be done in two steps. Because bacteria feeds on protein, all protein matter must be removed first when cleaning in step one, followed by disinfecting in step two.

Chicken dumping

Another sore point for the poultry industry is the continued practice of export dumping from other countries to get rid of the cuts they have no market for. This has impacted the local industry immensely with many farmers and farm workers losing their livelihoods. Francois Baird of the organisation Fairplay discussed how the industry needs to overcome this challenge. He concluded that the industry needs to come up with a masterplan that could include improving traceability and forming global partnerships.

Avian influenza

“As we all know, the poultry industry has been severely hit by avian influenza with millions of birds dying as a result. Unless you are a farmer who has had to deal with the disposal of this mass of carcasses, you probably have never wondered what happens with all the dead birds farmers are left with,” said Eugene Pienaar of the Western Cape Department of Environmental Affairs and Developmental Planning (DEA & DP).  He further said that they were dealing with farms hit by AI where approximately 750 tons of carcasses have to be disposed of in a way that will reduce the chances of it spreading. Eggs as well as feed and faeces also needed to be disposed of.

“Although incineration is one of the methods of disposing of AI carcasses, it is not efficient for large amounts,” says Pienaar. “The two best options are burial or composting. Disposal of carcasses at landfills is prohibited by regulations. In fact, AI carcasses and other materials have to be disposed of on the farm it broke out on and may not be transported to another area until the virus has been killed.

Also, according to regulations, one needs to get permission from the DEA & DP to dispose of such materials. This application needs to be signed off by a state vet before it is approved by the department.” According to Pienaar the applications for disposal received in the Western Cape were issued within 24 hours. Farmers attending the talk on this topic said that in other regions the waiting period was often between eight and ten days, which caused major problems for the disposal process.

Pienaar said that in his experience with recent disposals en masse, composting was the most effective method for safe disposal, but it was a bit more expensive. For burial and composting, the carcasses are buried in deep plastic-layered trenches in the ground. The heaps must also be sealed tightly with plastic covers to prevent wild birds from becoming infected and spreading the virus further.

For composting, the heaps are kept at a high temperature over a period of time to kill the virus. The compost also needed to be turned regularly to encourage the composting process, which is where the additional costs come in for hiring equipment as well as a specialist to oversee that the composting process is done correctly. If done correctly, the end result is a perfectly safe and good quality compost that can be applied to crop production. –Ursula Human, FarmBiz