Pastured Poultry Industry unites to mitigate Avian Flu risk

Pastured Poultry Industry unites to mitigate Avian Flu risk

ORICoop hosted an impromptu online presentation regarding the current Avian Flu outbreak that was attended by Pastured Poultry producers around Australia.  Thanks particularly to Karen Gurney from Redsun Nutrition, Paolo Crofts from Tall Poppy Farm and Venu from Melbourne Eggs.  And thanks to the event sponsors NASAA and Organic Industries of Australia

Karen Gurney – Biosecurity Best Practice

Ensuring sufficient quantities of ingredients are available to meet your feed requirements on an ongoing basis.

Grains and proteins make up the bulk of the feed composition and as farming crops they are dependent on climatic conditions.  Both floods and droughts affect the quality, the energy and protein content of the grain or seed. The poultry industry has a large demand for soybean meal, and the local production volume does not meet this requirement, so it is imported.  With the spotlight on sustainability, we are looking at replacements for soybean meal, especially locally grown crops.  There is a lot of nutrition research covering what ingredients and how much can be fed to broilers and layers to maintain performance.

Micro ingredients usually come from overseas.  Supply can be affected by shipping, freight and production issues in different countries.  Interruption to the supply chain was severe during the covid years and still is not back to being reliable.  We have been advised the coming Q3 and Q4 months will have supply delays due to shipping. 

The requirement for organic grains and protein sources is even more difficult as the production volumes are much less than non-organic.  We are always looking to the next harvest, looking for new farmers to grow organic crops, keeping track of new research, new crop rotational practices to improve soil and yields.

A few years ago, the local crop volumes were low, we had to source from overseas and this required strict exemption from the certifying bodies to allow us to do that.  We needed to do this to keep feeding the birds, with welfare being our priority.

FEED NUTRITION white chooks

There are a few parts to this.  First is the nutrients required by the bird, as a growing pullet and as an egg producing hen.  During these stages and throughout life, the nutrient requirements of poultry change.  They depend on genetics and breed, age, sex (males for broilers or breeder sires), body weight, reproductive state, ambient temperature, housing system, range activity, health status, and production aims of egg numbers or egg size.

The 2nd part to nutrition is the nutrient intake.  This is affected by the nutrient composition of the feed and the amount eaten.  Ingredient quality, feed form as a pellet or mash, contamination can affect the amount of feed eaten.  For egg layers, the aim is to maximise egg production at minimum feed cost, while controlling egg size and egg quality.  

It is important to always know your feed intake so that either the feed intake or the ration specifications can be adjusted to meet the hen’s requirements.  For example, a young pullet coming into lay will be eating 70 – 80 grams/day, at 25 weeks she will be eating around 115g/day and then as she ages and produces eggs that will be 125g to 145g/day.  Usually, we will feed at least 3 different feeds; early, mid and late layer rations all with very different nutrient specifications.  When only one ration is fed for the whole of production, it gets a bit trickier and the hens are often fed ad lib to allow them to regulate their intake.

The 3rd part is the nutrients.  Carbohydrates are the main source of energy, provided by cereal grains.  Fats and oils provide energy and essential fatty acids. Proteins and the amino acids that make up protein and are used mainly for tissue growth, feather growth, egg production. Vitamins and minerals are required for normal health, growth and production, they are required for many physiological processes in the body.


This covers the feeding of safe feed. Some questions to consider how they relate to your farm;

  • Is your feed all made on your farm?
  • Do any feed components come onto your farm from a 3rd party? 
  • Do you know all your suppliers’ biosecurity policies? Do they have a policy?
  • For truck deliveries, did that truck also deliver to other poultry farms?  On the same day?  Was the truck cleaned before delivering your feed? (Noting that AI is active for up to 14 days)
  • For grains coming onto your farm, do you ask for the “grain cartage certificate” that shows the 3 previous deliveries?  Do you consciously register the dates, times and locations of the previous deliveries and their proximity to your farm?  Take a photo of the certificate if it is not left with you. 
  • Feed storage – is it all sealed with no access to wild birds?  Are all feed spillages cleaned up when they occur?
  • When feed is fed out, do the hens eat it all with nothing remaining for wild birds?
  • Do you know that your main threats are exposure to wild birds through free ranging and wild birds congregating around waterways.
  • Do you notice wild birds, especially ducks on your farm?  Are there many, or just a few?  Where do they congregate? Do you notice any droppings outside your range areas?  
  • What are your plans for keeping ducks out of your paddocks and away from your dams?
  • Are there any structures wild birds will perch on, distributing dropping close to your hens?
  • Are there dams, ponds, pools of water that wild birds have access to?  Is any of this water used for your birds drinking water?  It is so important that birds have access to clean water, without biofilms, impurities or contamination.  Remember, a chicken will drink about twice as much as it eats.  If water intake is reduced, the feed intake will reduce, and egg production will reduce.
  • Do you know who is coming onto your farm?  Family, friends, contractors, farmers?
  • Do you know their movements prior?
  • Do they have their own poultry?
  • Do you have a record of people and bird movement onto and off your farm?
  • Do you have a wheel wash at your farm gate?  Can be as simple as a backpack with disinfectant, or an1000L IBC of water,  disinfectant solution in a drum and a water hose.  Doesn’t have to be fancy, just needs to clean the wheels to avoid bringing contaminants onto your farm.

There was a time when I didn’t know a lot about biosecurity, I looked after nutrition, and I considered biosecurity to be veterinary.  I have clients in Qld, NSW, Vic and PNG.  I quarantine before and after visiting poultry farms, I sign the visitors log.  I use the foot baths, I wash the wheels of my car, I wear PPE or shower on and off farms. I am now so much more diligent. It is our responsibility to keep the industry resilient and going forward.

 What can you do?  Build biosecurity into your everyday best work practice. Develop and on-farm biosecurity plan, use the National Farm Biosecurity Manual for Poultry Production as your guide.  Ask for help; understanding how you can better safeguard your business can be the  difference between being anxious about the worst case scenario and feeling empowered to keep prospering as individuals, as a business and as an industry.

FAQS – Questions asked by Attendees with answers from presenters. 

QUESTION – Can water treatment  help? ie with Hydrogen peroxide , Acetic Acid , EM effective microbes, this is assuming that waters are blocked off from access other than watering posts.

Re transport declarations – if it is organic then documentation should accompany each incoming load of stockfeed, if you have capacity built into your supply agreement a clause that covers biosecurity issues.

QUESTION – We need to approach the government for subsidies to purchase effective equipment like the green lasers. We also need industry wide insurance to sustain businesses affected by closures. We spoke to Ag Vic today and they said it’s just a matter of time before the H5N1 appears in Australia. Do we have an industry body that can speak for us as a whole?

RESPONSE – currently there is not a Pastured Poultry representative group.  However these are resources we would suggest growers get engaged with:-

  • Australian Pastured Poultry Group – HERE
  • Join ORICoop HERE (organic producer Cooperative)
  • American Pastured Poultry Association HERE

QUESTION –Do chickens recover from Avian Influenza? 

RESPONSE – Infected birds die from the severe symptoms with high mortality; it can be 100% mortality.

QUESTION – If the ducks are spreading it, are the ducks dying? 

RESPONSE – Wild birds are carriers without showing symptoms of the disease.

QUESTION – How have these “outbreak farms” identified that they have Avian Influenza?

RESPONSE – The first signs would have been increased unexplained deaths or the onset of severe symptoms.  This would have required veterinary assessment which if not explained would have escalated to calling the Emergency Animal Disease Hotline.

QUESTION – Why are the wild birds apparently not showing the signs of these viruses in a way that our poultry is showing up?

RESPONSE – Wild birds and ducks are the natural host of AI and they do not show symptoms of the disease.  They shed the virus in saliva, nasal secretions and in faeces.  Domestic poultry are very susceptible to the virus and develop symptoms and disease.

QUESTION – What is the risk with fermented food / sprouts and salmonella contamination

RESPONSE – Poultry feed is at high risk for salmonella contamination.  Commercial feed is better when pelleted as the high temperatures used in the pelleting process kills the salmonella.  Mash feeds and on farm mixing of ingredients requires good hygiene, good rodent control and clean ingredients.  This will reduce the risk of contamination.

COMMENTS:- I sat on the Australian Eggs webinar yesterday and quickly discovered that farmers are not well equipped to stop the contamination from wild birds. And the pastured poultry people are almost blamed for this.

RESPONSE –  Industry must be proactive – and have a high level of biosecurity and risk mitigation practices in place.  Including records and paper trails.

COMMENTS:- Thank you Paola, great presentation. Are you only feeding fermented grain, or what else makes up your total ration?   One further question, what is your brooder set up to raise your own chicks 

Paola: We feed 36% of fermented organic grains and the rest is an organic pellet that they can eat as they choose.  I have two brooders, one has heat and the other does not have heat until they go out on the pasture at 12 weeks.  The brooder with heat is fully insulated and easy to clean with concrete floor  so no rat issues.  The outside brooder has an outside area with a high fence.  Happy to discuss further.

Fermented food for 400 birds is 8 parts wheat to 1/2 part wheat (approx 20 kg in total) per day.  This ration suggested was 8 parts wheat to 1/2 part peas, then double water, cover the wheat with twice as much water

Nicole: There is a professor who contacted me about antivirals for poultry against AI but it is only early days. If anyone is interested in this, happy to pass on his details.

Paola: A question regarding pursuing herd immunity rather than mass culling?

RESPONSE – Herd immunity is not recognised at this stage due to high fatality in existing cases.

Speakers contacts for further enquiry:-outdoor chooks

Karen Gurney – Redsun Nutrition, Poultry Nutrition specialist

Email –

Paola Crofts – Tall Poppy Farm

Email –

Venu – Melbourne Eggs

Email –

Jean Belstead – Natural homeopathic remedies for poultry (mentioned during  latter part of presentation)


Homeopathic component:

  • Avian flu nosode to antidote or protect
  • Copper + Zinc to support the nosode

Herbal component:

  • Immune function support
  • Anti-virus
  • Pulmonary/lung support
  • Anti-haemorrhage 

Contact Jean directly to order remedies via email –

Other Important Resources:-

  • National Poultry Biosecurity Manual HERE
  • National Organic Standards –  HERE
  • Avian Flu reference for Organic Producers (from Canada) –  HERE
  • Organic Poultry Feed trial – register your interest –  HERE
  • Information regarding ORICoop Membership –  HERE
  • Wild bird deterrent – scarer – Scolexia HERE

Secure poultry feeders that minimises access by wild birds:-

  • Chicken caravan feeders 
  • Aussie Feeders ( Although out of business now)
  • Paton feeders
  • Advantage feeders
  • Bromar feeders
  • Grandpa feeders (for backyard poultry)

Thanks again to our Sponsors – NASAA and Organic Industries of Australia

NASAA OrganicOricoopLOVE Organic

And our Speakers –     Tall Poppy Farm                 Melbourne Eggs                     Redsun Nutrition

Thanks to those that attended the online event and asked lots of questions.  We hope this blog is a helpful resource for producers that are managing and mitigating the risks of Avian Influenza.  Feel free to contact the speakers directly via email or to follow ORICoop to connect with other pastured and/or organic producers for other beneficial resources.

Link to the live recording of the online Pastured Poultry event below or link HERE. We welcome you to listen, share and learn!  And be proactive in mitigating the risk of Avian Flu and a health pastured poultry growing system on your farm!

ORICoop and the presenters have collated this information to the best of their ability.  It is provided in good faith and should be used as suggestions only for mitigating risk to a poultry enterprise.  At no time does ORICoop or presenters  guarantee these suggestions will prevent infection or transmission in what is an unknown or quantified risk.  We recommend you seek expert veterinary advice for any sick birds and consult with your Agricultural department or certifier with regard to any treatment protocols.