Guidance

Salmonella: get your breeding turkeys tested

Find out when and how to take samples for testing, and what happens if one of your flocks tests positive.

You must take samples and send them to an approved laboratory for testing if at any time in a 12-month period you keep 250 or more breeding turkeys. This is part of the national control programme (NCP) for salmonella, which aims to control salmonella in poultry flocks across the EU.

You must sample each of your breeding flocks. A flock is a group of birds that shares the same house or range area.

If you’re not sure if your birds are considered to be in one or more flock, you can ask for advice from the Animal and Plant Health Agency (APHA) in England, Scotland or Wales, or the Department of Agriculture and Rural Development (DARD) in Northern Ireland.

When you don’t have to test a flock

You don’t have to test a flock if you either:

  • farm fewer than 500 birds
  • only produce birds for private use (not for sale)
  • only sell direct to consumers through farm gate sales or to local retailers that only supply consumers

Register your flocks and hatchery before you get them tested

You must register each premises where you keep your flocks on one of the following:

When you must not sample

Avoid taking samples during or shortly after giving antimicrobials (antibiotics) that affect salmonella. APHA or DARD could declare your flock positive for salmonella if:

  • inspectors see from the flock medicine book that you’ve given antimicrobials
  • the laboratory suspects that there may be disinfectant and antimicrobials in your samples

Contact one of the following for guidance on when to test after giving antimicrobials:

  • your vet (who will have prescribed the antimicrobials)
  • APHA if you farm in England, Scotland or Wales
  • DARD if you farm in Northern Ireland

Don’t collect samples unless you’re sure they’ll arrive at the laboratory and it can start testing them within 96 hours (4 days) of sampling. Before you collect samples, check with your chosen laboratory to find out if they can handle samples sent to them on a Thursday or a Friday.

Paying for sampling equipment and tests

You need to buy your own sampling equipment. Contact one of the following to find out where:

  • your vet
  • the government-approved laboratory you plan to send samples to
  • your nearest APHA office in England, Scotland or Wales
  • DARD in Northern Ireland

You’ll also have to pay the laboratory charges for salmonella testing for your own samples and for official samples. Contact DARD for for details of fees in Northern Ireland.

You must regularly test each breeding flock as part of the NCP. You can do the sampling:

  • at the hatchery - you must sample adult flocks must be sampled every 3 weeks
  • on farm - you can sample every 4 weeks as long as your flock hasn’t recently tested positive for the salmonella strains (also known as serotype or serovars) covered by the NCP

Official sampling at your premises

Officials will visit your premises in the lifetime of the flock to take routine official. If you’re in England, Scotland or Wales it’ll be an official from APHA, an authorised vet or an independent control body (if your flock is is registered with the Quality British Turkeys assurance scheme). In Northern Ireland it’ll be an official from DARD.

They’ll sample birds aged between 30 and 45 weeks of age from all breeding flocks that are on holds that require NCP sampling.

If the official’s from APHA or DARD they can also take samples:

  • if Salmonella enteritidis or Salmonella typhimurium has been detected in another flock or in a previous crop of flocks on your holding
  • from all the flocks on your holding if a positive test for Salmonella enteritidis or Salmonella typhimurium at a hatchery has been traced back to one of your flocks
  • from flocks where there’s no evidence of testing
  • if they think a test result from your samples is inaccurate

Choose a hatchery sampling method

Choose one of the following ways to take samples:

  • broken eggshells
  • hatcher basket liners that are visibly soiled - but check that your laboratory accepts your type of hatcher basket liner
  • fabric swabs - if there are more than 50,000 eggs from one flock in the hatchery, and you must take 2 samples for that flock

You must sample enough hatchers to make sure that you include 80% of the eggs from the flock you’re sampling in the sample that you collect.

Take hatchery samples

You should gather the plastic gloves, plastic bags and packaging you’ll need before you go into the hatchery. This is to prevent contamination before, during and after sampling.

How to take an eggshell sample

Before sampling, check that the lab you plan to submit the samples to can accept your liners. Some labs will not be able to accept certain types of hatcher liners.

  1. Put on 2 new pairs of plastic gloves.
  2. Take at least 10 grams of broken eggshells from each of 25 hatcher baskets.
  3. Crush and mix them thoroughly in a strong plastic bag (making sure that the bag and your gloves aren’t damaged to avoid any contamination that could lead to a false positive result).
  4. Put 25g of the crushed mixture into a pot to send to the laboratory.

How to take a hatcher liner sample

  1. Put on a new pair of plastic gloves.
  2. Choose at least one square metre (sq m) of hatcher basket liners from 5 hatcher baskets that have contained eggs from the flock you need to sample.
  3. Put the liners from different flocks into separate plastic bags to send to the laboratory.

How to take a hatcher fluff and dust sample

  1. Put on a new pair of plastic gloves, ensuring that there is no contamination with disinfectant.
  2. Moisten a fabric swab that has an area of at least 900 square centimetres (sq cm). Use tap water or still bottled water - never use sparkling water or water treated on the farm with antibacterials or acid.
  3. Swab fluff and dust from 5 different places, including the floor of the hatcher, as soon as the poults (young turkeys) have been removed and before you start cleaning. Swab from the whole area of the bottom of at least 5 different hatcher baskets.
  4. Make sure the swab is completely covered on both sides.
  5. Put the swab into a sealable bag to send to the laboratory.

Take samples from your breeding flocks

Sample your one-day-old poults

You must send 10 poult box liners per flock per hatchery source with all the contents, including unhatched eggs, eggshells, all poults found dead or culled (killed) on arrival.

Sample your poults at 4 weeks and 2 weeks before moving them to the laying unit

You must send 5 pairs of boot swabs. Either:

  • package them in 2 separate batches of 5 boot swabs each
  • put 2 pairs of boot swabs together in one bag or pot, and 3 pairs together in another bag or pot

You must also send:

  • one pair of boot swabs and one dust swab of 900sq cm - package them separately
  • 2 or more hand-held faecal swabs with a total surface area of 900sq cm if you can’t use boot swabs - this is only allowed if you have fewer than 100 turkeys at the time of sampling

From adult breeding birds

Once you have moved birds into the laying unit, you must either take samples from them on your holding or sample their eggs in the hatchery. You must take samples on the holding from breeding turkeys that lay hatching eggs that you sell to farms in other EU member states.

You must take samples every 4 weeks if you meet all the following conditions:

  • you sample your breeding birds on your holding rather than sampling their eggs at a hatchery
  • you intend to keep 250 birds or more breeding birds over the course of a year
  • there has been no Salmonella enteriditis or Salmonella typhimurium on your holding in the last 2 years

You must take samples every 3 weeks if:

  • you have the eggs from your breeding birds sampled at a hatchery
  • there has been Salmonella enteriditis or Salmonella typhimurium on your holding in the last 2 years

Collect samples and have the result back in time to send it with the birds to slaughter if you’re sending breeding birds to slaughter for human consumption.

If your birds will be slaughtered at less than 101 days of age then you must collect collect samples in the 3 weeks before slaughter unless they’re organic turkeys.

If your birds will be slaughtered at more than 100 days of age (or are younger but are organic turkeys), then you must collect samples in the 6 weeks before slaughter.

What kinds of samples you can take

On your holding you can take samples in one of the following ways:

You must also send:

  • 5 pairs of boot swabs - either package them in 2 separate batches of 5 boot swabs each, or put 2 pairs of boot swabs together in one bag or pot, and 3 pairs together in another bag or pot
  • one pair of boot swabs and one dust swab of 900sq cm - package them separately
  • 2 or more hand-held faecal swabs with a total surface area of 900sq cm - but this is only allowed if you can’t use boot swabs and you have fewer than 100 turkeys at the time of sampling - package them in 2 batches

In the hatchery you can take one of the following types of samples:

  • a total of 1sq m of liners that are visibly soiled, taken from 5 hatcher baskets
  • fabric swabs with a total surface area of 900sq cm from 5 places in the hatcher, including at least one sample from the floor of the hatcher
  • fabric swabs with a total surface area of 900sq cm from the whole surface of the bottom of at least 5 different hatcher baskets
  • 10g of broken eggshells from each of 25 hatcher baskets, making 250g broken eggshells in total

You must take 2 samples for that flock if there are more than 50,000 eggs from one flock in the hatchery.

How to take samples

Prepare to take a boot swab sample

You should use:

  • disposable plastic overboots
  • 5 pairs of boot swabs - these must be absorbent enough to soak up moisture, and you can also use tubegauze ‘socks’ or premoistened commercial swabs
  • tap water or bottled still water for moistening boot swabs - never use sparkling water or water treated on the farm with antibacterial agents or acids
  • disposable plastic gloves
  • sealable bags or sample pots
  • packaging for sending your sample bags or pots to the laboratory

Take samples in the existing bedding (litter) - don’t put new bedding down.

You should gather all the equipment you’re going to need before you go into the laying house, to prevent contamination before, during and after sampling. You should take special care to avoid contamination if you keep other animals (especially pigs or cattle) on your premises.

To prevent disinfectant or sanitiser affecting your sample, you:

  • shouldn’t use hand sanitiser on your plastic gloves
  • should put on your plastic overboots after you’ve walked through disinfectant

If you do wear plastic overboots when you walk through disinfectant, you should put on another pair afterwards to protect the boot swabs from the disinfectant.

Taking a boot swab sample

You should sample only the inside of the house. Also, avoid sampling the areas just inside doors and pop holes, as they may have been contaminated by material from outdoors.

Moisten the boot swabs before you take samples by pouring water inside them or shaking them in a container of water.

You can either just collect boot swabs, or a mixture of boot swabs and dust samples.

Only collecting boot swabs

If just collecting boot swabs you must take 5 pairs of boot swabs from each flock. Divide the house into 5 equal parts for sampling, and use one pair of boot swabs in each part.

Take at least 100 steps in each pair of boot swabs. Swab every part of the house. Drag your feet on the floor to pick up as much material you can. If the house is divided into several pens, spend more time in the larger pens and less in the smaller pens.

Collecting boot swabs and dust samples

If collecting a combination of boot swabs and dust sample take one pair of boot swabs from each flock, walking around the entire house. Then take at least 100 steps in the pari of boot swabs. Swab every part of the house. Drag your feet on the floor to pick up as much material as you can.

If the house is divided into several pens, spend more time in the larger pens and less in the smaller pens.

When you’ve finished sampling

When you’ve finished sampling, take off the boot swabs and turn them inside out so that all the faeces you’ve collected stays on them. Put 2 pairs of boot swabs together in one bag or pot and 3 pairs together in another bag or pot, or 5 boot swabs in one container and the other 5 in the second. Once in the appropriate container, package them together and send them to the laboratory.

How to take a dust sample

You should collect the plastic gloves, plastic bags and packaging that you’ll need before you go into the house. This is to prevent contamination before, during and after sampling.

  1. Put on new plastic gloves - make sure you don’t contaminate them with disinfectant.
  2. Open out the hand-held dust swab. The total area of the swab must be at least 900sq cm.
  3. Moisten the dust swab using tap water or bottled still water (never use sparkling water or water treated on the farm with antibacterial agents or acids).
  4. Swab at least 20 different places around the house including ledges, partitions, ventilation grills and anywhere else dust has settled. Don’t take samples from feeding systems.
  5. Make sure that both sides of the swab are completely covered with dust.
  6. Package the swab and dust into a sealable bag or pot to send to the laboratory.

How to take faecal swabs

Collect the plastic gloves, plastic bags and packaging that you’ll need before you go into the house. This is to prevent contamination before, during and after sampling.

  1. Put on new plastic gloves - make sure you don’t contaminate them with disinfectant.
  2. Open out the hand-held dust swabs. You’ll need at least 2 the total area of the swabs must be at least 900sq cm.
  3. Moisten the swab using tap water or bottled still water (never use sparkling water or water treated on the farm with antibacterial agents or acids)
  4. Thoroughly swab the pen area, the floor and any perches in several different areas where faeces has built up.
  5. Make sure that both sides of the swab are completely covered in faeces.
  6. Place the swabs into 2 sealable bags or pots to send to the laboratory. Make sure you follow these batching instructions so that the laboratory accepts your samples.

Label samples

On each sample you must include:

  • the date you took the sample
  • your registration number or your County Parish Holding (CPH) number or DARD flock number
  • the identification of the flock - house name or number and the month and year you moved the flock into that house
  • the name and address of the flock’s holding
  • the age of the flock
  • the number of birds in the flock
  • the contact details of the person sending the sample

For hatchery samples, add the name of the hatchery and the hatcher machine number

Send samples to a laboratory

You should send your samples on the day you collect them. Refrigerate your samples at 2 to 8°C if you can’t send them on that same day. You must not freeze samples.

Make sure the testing laboratory gets your samples within 48 hours of when you collected them (and that they can test them within 96 hours), otherwise you’ll have to take new samples.

You must send your samples to a UK laboratory that’s approved to test salmonella NCP samples. Find laboratories approved by:

Get your test results

The laboratory usually sends the results to:

  • the person who sent the sample
  • the person the sampled flock is registered to
  • APHA or DARD if the sample tests positive for salmonella

If your samples test positive for salmonella

What happens if a hatchery sample tests positive

If one of your samples or an official sample from a hatchery tests positive for Salmonella enteritidis or Salmonella typhimurium, APHA or DARD will take samples from all the flocks on your holding.

If Salmonella enteritidis or Salmonella typhimurium is confirmed, you must keep your positive flocks and eggs laid by birds in the farm. You must slaughter all the birds in the positive flocks.

APHA or DARD will contact you to discuss the arrangements for slaughtering all the birds in the positive flocks and destroying all hatching eggs that might be infected (including those already at the hatchery).

APHA or DARD will also place the hatchery under a movement restriction. This means that you will only be allowed to move equipment, animals or animal products on to or off your hatchery with a licence from APHA or DARD. They may also carry an audit of the hatchery, including tests to see if salmonella has become resident.

APHA or DARD will only lift the movement restrictions after you clean and disinfect your hatchery and test results come back negative

What happens if a sample from a breeding holding tests positive

If one of the samples you submit from a breeding holding tests positive for salmonella APHA or DARD will take a further sample to confirm Salmonella Enteritidis or Salmonella Typhimurium is present.

If the official samples test positive for Salmonella Enteritidis or Salmonella Typhimurium, APHA or DARD will contact you to tell you what you have to do. This will include all of the following:

  • keeping the birds and eggs from the positive flocks on your farm
  • having your positive flock or flocks slaughtered
  • destroying your hatching eggs, if those eggs were laid while the flock was positive for salmonella

You won’t have to pay for any samples or testing carried out by APHA or DARD because of a positive test result.

Get compensation

You’ll automatically get compensation for breeding birds you need to cull (kill) if your flock tests positive for Salmonella Enteritidis or Salmonella Typhimurium following official sampling.

Keep records

Keep records for at least 2 years. APHA or DARD officials can check your records at any time, eg during a routine NCP visit or a visit after a positive test result.

You must send these records to your nearest APHA office or DARD every 6 months, within 15 working days of the last working day of June and December.

Keep test records

For each test you must record the:

  • date you took the sample
  • the flock identification, which is the flock’s house name or number, and the month and year the flock moved into the house
  • type of sample, eg boot swab or dust sample
  • age of the flock
  • date you plan to have the flock slaughtered
  • laboratory that tested the sample
  • test result

Keep movement records

You need to record any movement of birds to or from your holding. For each movement record the:

  • date of movement
  • number of birds
  • age of the birds
  • house name or number, and the month and year the flock moved onto your holding
  • address that the birds moved from (including the building name or number)
  • address that the birds moved to (including the building name or number)

Food chain information documents

You must declare the flock’s most recent salmonella test result in the food chain information (FCI) documents that you send with the birds to slaughter if you market any meat from your birds as fresh meat.

You don’t have to declare the most recent salmonella test if you heat treat all the meat from the flock before marketing it for human consumption.

Declare salmonella test results

You must declare all the NCP Salmonella test results, negative or positive, as well as the date the sample was taken from the flock in the Food Chain Information (FCI) documents accompanying the batch to slaughter.

This is a legal requirement and the birds may not be slaughtered if this information is not provided.

Further information

Contact your nearest APHA or DARD office if you need advice.

You can also read the code of practice for prevention of salmonella in turkey flocks (PDF, 153KB, 31 pages) , which provides best practice for preventing salmonella.

Published 8 February 2016