Vehicle biosecurity in poultry production

January 23, 2019

This post is written by Neogen vet Nick Wagner, DVM. 

Implementing a biosecurity program that will protect a poultry flock requires both a dedicated mindset and a very thorough set of procedures to achieve the ultimate goal of protection from infectious disease. Vehicle biosecurity is a key component of these multifaceted programs. Vehicle biosecurity involves the comprehensive set of procedures implemented at the designated entry and exit point to the facility to prevent the transmission of disease both onto and off the production site associated with transportation traffic.

A vehicle biosecurity program starts with restricting access to the production facility through establishing a defined, secure perimeter containing a designated entry point. It is important that signs are posted around the perimeter clearly communicating the required point of entry for all vehicle traffic. Any vehicles that are granted access to cross the perimeter and enter the production facility must be appropriately cleaned and disinfected. The vehicle cleaning and disinfecting process must be designed to effectively address all areas of potential contamination, including both interior and exterior surfaces.

The cleaning process begins with the removal of dirt, manure and other organic matter from the surfaces of the vehicle. An emphasis should be placed on the cleaning of the interior of the vehicle before proceeding to address the exterior. Any dirty clothing or personal protective equipment (PPE) should be removed from the interior of the vehicle for laundering or disposal. Areas of focus to clean and disinfect on the interior of the vehicle should be the door handles, steering wheel, controls, and floor mats. A broad spectrum, non-corrosive, easy-to-use, all-in-one cleaner and disinfectant wipe would be an effective product to use for the door handles, controls and steering wheel. The floor mats should be removed from the vehicle, sprayed to eliminate dirt and debris, cleaned with a detergent, rinsed, disinfected and permitted to dry prior to reinstalling.

Any animal bedding material present in the trailer of the vehicle or crates should be removed at a designated location for proper disposable prior to the wash station. At the wash station, conduct an initial spray down of the trailer, crates, wheel wells, tires, undercarriage and other contaminated external surfaces to remove any loose debris. Select and apply a general purpose, non-corrosive, biodegradable detergent to external surfaces, the trailer and crates to assist with the final removal of any contamination for a thorough cleaning in preparation for disinfection. After application of the cleaner, scrubbing of surfaces and providing 10–15 minutes of detergent contact time will loosen debris prior to rinsing. All surfaces should be rinsed thoroughly with water using a top-to-bottom approach to remove the detergent and any remaining organic material. Before proceeding, it is important to ensure that all newly cleaned external surfaces are dry. This is key in applying the proper concentration of disinfectant. Now proceed with disinfection of all newly cleaned external surfaces. Select and apply a broad spectrum, non-corrosive disinfectant solution to eliminate all disease-causing agents, including bacteria, viruses and fungi. During the disinfection process, it is important that the required contact time for effectiveness of the selected product is followed and all safety warnings on the label receive the proper attention necessary to protect personnel. Labels may necessitate PPE such as goggles, gloves, coveralls and boots. The vehicle should be permitted time to dry prior to reuse. A final area of emphasis is the maintenance of the wash station to prevent any re-contamination through its continued use. The wash station should be completely clean and free of any residues following each use. The wash station should be designed to effectively handle all drainage and run-off generated to prevent any exposure to the flock and to comply with all environmental regulations.

It is important to give careful consideration to the selection of the appropriate chemistries utilized in the cleaning and disinfecting process. Further, with cleaners it is recommended to establish a rotation to achieve the best results. Acidic cleaners work well for mineral scale, hard water, soils and biofilms. Alkaline cleaners work well for fats and oils. Neutral cleaners work well as surfactants to eliminate dirt and debris. The combination of glutaraldehyde with a quaternary ammonium would serve as an effective broad spectrum, non-corrosive disinfectant product for vehicle biosecurity in the poultry industry. Peroxide oxidizing agents are being utilized in the industry as well as effective disinfectants, however, their corrosive nature can be a disadvantage. Other disinfectant chemistries are available to include phenols, iodine, chlorine, alcohols and alkaline compounds; however, their broad-spectrum efficacy against important infectious agents, effect on applied surfaces, and handling safety may limit their use.

Attention to detail is extremely important in the proper execution of the cleaning and disinfecting process involved with vehicles that enter and exit a production facility. It only takes the slightest amount of organic material on a vehicle to harbor an infectious agent that could provoke a catastrophic disease outbreak. Despite these procedures not being the most enjoyable of tasks within the poultry operation, they are necessary for successful implementation of a vehicle biosecurity program. Any failure in execution could have a significant impact on productivity and profitability. Train personnel on consistent high-level execution to ensure the necessary results are achieved. Vehicle biosecurity is a vital line of defense in maintaining a healthy flock.


    1. USDA, Iowa State University College of Veterinary Medicine. Information Manual for Implementing Poultry Biosecurity. October 2018.
    1. USDA, Iowa State University College of Veterinary Medicine. Poultry Industry Manual. March 2013.
    1. Carey, JB. Poultry Facility Biosecurity. Texas A&M AgriLife Extension.

Category: Animal Safety, Poultry, Animal Health, Sanitation & Hygiene