Knowing how to get NPIP certified is key to taking your poultry hobby to the next level. Many of us sell eggs off the farm, and some of us even sell birds to friends and family, but for those of us who aspire to grow bigger, knowing how to get NPIP certified is the first step in the right direction.
What is NPIP?
The National Poultry Improvement Plan (NPIP) was formed in 1935 to address the health challenges the poultry industry was facing at the hatchery level. The NPIP was, and still is a voluntary program, overseen by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), but managed at the state level. Being NPIP certified means that your flock has been tested, and found to be devoid of whichever infectious disease you certify is absent. The program now includes many different diseases and applies to all sorts of flocks. What’s more, it’s not just for large poultry operations, nor is it just for chickens.
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Why Be NPIP Certified?
NPIP certification is becoming the next logical step for many serious show bird breeders and small egg-producing flocks alike. When you’re engaged in selling birds or eggs to the public, being able to hang your name on a certified clean flock gives you a certain professional polish.
People buying your top-notch show birds can buy in confidence, knowing they’re investing in healthy, quality livestock. Egg customers can likewise rest easy knowing the locally grown eggs they buy from you are safe to eat.
Having an NPIP certification for your flock brings some additional benefits. If you’re breeding birds and would like to mail birds across state lines, you can do so legally. If the most unfortunate should happen and your flock becomes ill with a reportable disease (such as Avian Influenza), the USDA will reimburse you for all birds that are condemned. If the USDA depopulates a flock that was not NPIP certified, they only pay the owner 25 percent of the value of the loss.
What Certified Flock Owners Do to Keep Their Birds Healthy
None of us want sick chicks, and most of us follow basic biosecurity measures to avoid having sick chicks. When you’re an NPIP certified flock, however, you need to take your biosecurity a little more seriously than the average flock owner. Not only do you take your biosecurity seriously, but your state department of agriculture will require you to write it all down.
NPIP certified clean flocks re-test annually. The test(s) that is performed is determined by the certification you want and what species of bird you have. Flock owners are responsible for the costs of testing, which typically include the cost of drawing blood, shipment, and analysis by an NPIP approved laboratory.
Blood draws are easy and quick on a bird and are drawn from a vein on the wing with a scalpel and test tube. Many states require a representative sample of a flock, usually up to 300 tested birds. If your farm has less than 300 birds, it’s likely they will all be tested and banded to prove they were tested.
As a licensed poultry dealer in the state of Connecticut, I’m required to submit and maintain a written biosecurity plan. When I applied for my dealer’s license, the state sent me a template or boilerplate biosecurity plan to consider. I decided to form my own plan based on my particular farm needs, and you can do the same. Be sure your custom policy applies to you, includes the basic tenets of biosecurity, and any language your state may require. For example, as part of my licensure agreement, I’m required to purchase from NPIP certified flocks exclusively. Ask your state department of agriculture if they expect anything particular in your plan. They may have something specific for your situation or locality.
Facilities and Equipment
Most states will require a farm inspection before granting NPIP certification. State officials want to see for themselves that you have the facilities and equipment you need to keep a healthy flock.
There are some things to consider before an inspection. Is there trash, junk, or old equipment near or next to your barn? Piles of garbage and materials attract vermin, which is a biosecurity risk. Does brush surround your barn? Do you keep the grass short? Is your barn space clean, ventilated, and well-managed? Is your hatching area sanitary, or a cluttered mess? Do you have proper disinfectants to maintain your incubator and hatchers? All these things will concern a state inspector, so consider them before you apply.
Part of an effective biosecurity plan includes how you’ll manage traffic, be it human, vehicular, or equipment as it enters and exits your farm. Examples of traffic control measures include foot dip pans at the entrance of your barns to control the potential of disease coming into your coop while riding on the bottom of your boots. If you have grain trucks or your pickup truck driving up to your barn to deliver grain, having a way to wash tires and wheel wells will help reduce the risk of tracking in disease from the outside world.
Rodents And Pests
Mice, rats, beetles, and all sorts of critters can bring disease to your flock. Do you have a plan to control them? Do you use rodent bait stations? Do you make your barns uninviting to other critters? This kind of information belongs in your written biosecurity plan.
As much as we try to avoid it, chickens do get sick. As an NPIP flock, you’ll be required to report any unusual illness or elevated mortality within your flock. Make sure you designate who you report to, such as your state veterinarian, and what you will do if you see problems in your coops.
I’m not saying you need to tell someone every time you have a chick with pasty butt, but if you see significant changes in flock behavior or birds start dying inexplicably, you need to say something. My biosecurity plan includes mandatory necropsy of any suspicious deaths on the farm, but I live 15 minutes from the state veterinary pathology lab, so it’s convenient for me.
How To Get NPIP Certified
Becoming an NPIP certified flock is not exceptionally difficult. The NPIP itself does not perform the certification, but instead, your state department of agriculture will. Contact your state’s official NPIP agency for state-specific instructions and forms. Each state has its own method, process, fees, and paperwork for you to follow and will offer you guidance on how to proceed.
Once you’ve filed and met your state’s requirements, your farm will be inspected, and your flock will undergo initial testing. It will then be up to you to maintain that certification by retesting your flock per your state’s guidelines.
Are you interested in becoming an NPIP certified flock? Tell us why in the comments below!