Keeping Bacteria Loads on the Farm to a Minimum

Posted: October 26, 2011

There has been quite a bit written in the news regarding bacterial contamination in our foods. When we read these articles, we are reminded of the fact that we in agriculture play a key part in keeping our food safe.

This is in part because we too consume the very products we are producing in the marketplace.  Our neighbors, our friends, our children, as well as we will eat our produce and the meat, milk and eggs produced in this county.  Food safety is taken very seriously, and some of the steps taken in the poultry industry will shed light on this.

For the most part, poultry is maintained and produced in enclosed housing. This is important as we can limit access outside access to the flocks.  Vermin such as wild birds, rats and mice that may carry bacteria on them are also excluded.  An Integrated Pest Management program (IPM) is used by poultry farms to ensure that such vectors never become a problem on the farm, at the mill or at the processing plant.  The core to this IPM program is the use of scouting (counting) for vectors such as mice around the farm.  Done weekly, scouting tells the farm whether any action is needed to help increase control on the farm.  The use of exclusion barriers such as large sized gravel beds around the buildings helps keep weeds and other vegetation from giving a mouse a “bus stop” to rest at beside a house.  Keeping clutter next to poultry housing to a minimum also aids in reducing the accumulation of rodents outside a building.  When we couple this scouting to good rotational control programs and sound sanitation, the chance of harmful bacteria from taking root on a farm is greatly reduced.  Attention to detail will keep these threats in check on a well-managed farm.

Gregory Martin is the Penn State Cooperative Extension Educator for Poultry serving the Southeast Region. Penn State is committed to affirmative action, equal opportunity, and the diversity of its workforce.  Penn State Extension in Cumberland County is located at 310 Allen Road, Suite 601, Carlisle, PA  17013, phone 717-240-6500, e-mail:, web address: