Managing Barn Bacteria

As the temperature climbs and warmer days are lasting longer, there is more opportunity for bacteria, like salmonella, bordetella, or clostridium (dermatitis bacteria), to multiply and get out of hand. The best way to manage your barn’s bacterial load is to anticipate those warm days and give your flocks the best environment to keep productive.

A few management techniques will help reduce the risk of dermatitis or other diseases in your flock.

History and downtime
If dermatitis or another bacterial disease was previously present in your flocks, there is a high likelihood that it could return to your new flock. You must eliminate bacteria through disinfection or physical removal from the environment to give your new flock a fighting chance at avoiding disease. Downtime can also play a major role in reducing disease. The longer your barn is empty, free of manure, and cleaned with disinfectant, the harder it is for bacteria to survive. Barns with shorter empty cycles commonly see a recurrence of bacterial disease.

The first action of cleaning is ensuring a full manure cleanout of the barn. Even barns with no previous bacterial issues should receive a full cleanout yearly, preferably twice a year in the spring and fall. Remove manure from around posts and any hard-to-reach areas of the barn. Lastly, a final sweeping of the  barn before washing and disinfecting boosts cleaning efforts.

When washing and disinfecting, focus on the cracks and crevasses to eliminate opportunities for bacteria to survive. It is also important to rotate your disinfectant throughout the year to prevent resistance. Be sure your barn has completely dried between washing and disinfecting and again following disinfecting. Also, sanitize and flush waterlines and drinkers to remove the biofilm that may be harboring bacteria.

Insecticide and rodent control
In addition to proper cleaning, implementing a strict schedule for insecticide and rodent baiting is equally important to prevent disease spread. Multi-age farms are especially prone to the spread of disease to other barns. Darkling beetles and mice easily migrate from one barn to another barn or barns on the same farm. To help prevent migration, rotate the kind of insecticide and rodenticide you use several times each year.  Changing the insecticide and season-appropriate bait will often minimize the spread of pests.

Manure piles located close to barns can also be a source of darkling beetle re-infestation. It is important to move manure away from your flocks to prevent this. If there is a high infestation of darkling beetles in your barn, consider treating the litter before it leaves the barn or directly spray insecticide on the manure pile itself. Please check your insecticide label for proper use, especially when treating outdoors.

Additional management practices
Keeping your flock’s environment clean is important, and there are additional steps to take to prevent diseases like dermatitis from creeping into your flock. If you use bell drinkers, relocate them to another place on the line several times a week, preferably daily, to ensure the litter stays dry. Immediately clean up and dry out any floods that occur in the barn.

Pick up dead birds twice a day at a minimum, which will help prevent the spread of bacteria. If you suspect a dead bird has dermatitis, pick it up and kick dry litter over the spot where it was lying. Toss the bird directly outside to avoid dripping anything onto the litter; every time the carcass touches anything, it could contaminate that area and further spread bacteria.

Although preventing and controlling bacterial diseases like dermatitis may seem impossible, consistent management practices will eradicate the disease. Call Sioux Nation Ag Center for additional tips on preventing and controlling dermatitis other bacteria. Our poultry team will help with any of your poultry needs!