The information below is intended primarily for large 'commercial' poultry growers. If you own a small number of backyard birds, please refer to:
Newcastle disease is a highly contagious viral disease of domestic poultry, aviary birds and wild birds. There are a number of different strains of the virus - some only cause very mild disease, whereas others can result in severe disease and rapid death.
Newcastle disease usually presents as an acute respiratory disease, but depression, diarrhea or nervous symptoms are also commonly seen. Infected birds shed the virus in exhaled air, respiratory discharges and faeces and other chickens are readily infected by airborne virus or by ingesting contaminated water or food. People and equipment can easily carry the virus from one shed or farm to another. Losses due to virulent Newcastle Disease can be high (death rate can be up to 100%) so it is important that precautions are taken to minimize the risk of the disease occurring in commercial flocks.
In Tasmania there are surveillance, reporting and biosecurity requirements that commercial poultry owners need to comply with in order to reduce the risk of Newcastle Disease (ND) being introduced to their flocks and to ensure the disease is quickly eradicated if it occurs.
Since 2002 the Newcastle Disease Management Strategy has included a compulsory vaccination program in all states of Australia. This was in response to a series of ND outbreaks between 1998 and 2002 that were eradicated by the slaughter of large numbers of birds. The consequential costs of those outbreaks to the poultry industry and to the broader community were considerable.
Vaccination is our best defence against Newcastle disease and it is compulsory for all long-life chickens (layers and breeders) in flocks of more than 1,000 birds.
The compulsory vaccination requirement applies only to egg producers and layer/broiler breeder producers who have flocks of 1,000 birds or more. In most cases, there is no need for owners of a small number of backyard poultry to vaccinate against Newcastle Disease. However smallholders can still apply for a permit if they wish to do so. To help them decide, a Biosecurity Tasmania Fact Sheet has been produced for people with fewer than 1,000 birds:
Newcastle Disease in Poultry - Important information for people with a few backyard chickens
However, small holders are still required to report any sick birds that may fit the Case definitions of Newcastle Disease (see section below).
Vaccination schedules and recommendations which Tasmanian producers must adhere to are detailed in the National Newcastle Disease Management Plan that can be found on the Animal Health Australia website Newcastle Disease Management.
Note: The following information summarises Newcastle Disease vaccination and reporting requirements for poultry producers in Tasmania. Sampling and reporting requirements may be different in other Australian states. It is not intended as a replacement of the
Animal Health Australia (AHA) National Newcastle Disease Management Plan and accompanying
Standard Operating Procedures - full reference must be given to the AHA version at all times.
Commercial producers should seek veterinary advice to ensure they have the best program for their circumstances.
Schedules that must be followed are set out below:
Note that live V4 is given in drinking water and inactivated vaccine is given by injection:
Laying hens and pullets raised in cages:
Laying hens and pullets raised on the floor
‘Meat chicken’ means any chicken grown specifically for consumption as meat after processing. It includes broilers, free-range meat chickens and off-sex layers.
Meat chickens to be kept for less than 24 weeks.
Vaccination of meat chickens that will be kept for less than 24 weeks is no longer required.
Note: Meat chickens intended to be kept for longer than 24 weeks, however, must be vaccinated as for meat chicken breeders.
If producers do choose to vaccinate meat chickens that are to be kept less than 24 weeks, live V4 vaccine maybe administered via the drinking water at 7-14 days or via a spray as day-olds and may need to be repeated so that titres stay at
23 for the duration of their lives.
Meat chicken breeders and meat chickens to be kept longer than 24 weeks, either:
How do producers get the vaccine?
Producers required to vaccinate their flocks need to apply to NRE Tas for a permit to buy, store and use the vaccine.
The main requirement of producers is that, in using the vaccine, they comply with the industry-approved vaccination schedules outlined above, store the vaccine appropriately and keep proper vaccination records. When using the vaccine, vaccinators must also follow the vaccine label directions for care, handling, mixing and administration of the vaccine.
Once issued with a permit, producers are able to buy the vaccine direct from the manufacturers.
For information about how to vaccinate, consult your veterinarian or read the
Vaccination Training Manual available from the Australian Egg Corporation Ltd.
Where can poultry owners get a permit application form?
A permit application form is available to download below (there is no permit application fee):
Sampling and Reporting requirements
Newcastle disease is a notifiable animal disease under Tasmanian legislation. The presence or suspicion of this disease must be reported to the Department of Natural Resources and Environment Tasmania as soon as possible. Producers, irrespective of the size of their flock, must submit samples from sick birds fitting the case definition outlined below.
Case definitions for Newcastle disease
Layers and breeders
The case definition of Newcastle disease for layers and breeders is:
any nervous or respiratory disease signs
mortality of 0.5% per day or more for three or more days in any shed
any shed suffering a 10% drop in egg production OR
or the appearance of 5% unexpected shell colour or 5% shell-less eggs over 2-3 day
The case definition of Newcastle disease for broilers is any shed showing:
nervous signs regardless of the duration,
respiratory signs lasting more than two days,
mortality (not including culling) of 0.5% per day or more for three or more days after the first week of placement.
It is important to report the event to NRE Tas as soon as possible on 1300 368 500 or 03 6165 3777
After hours contact the Emergency Animal Disease Hotline 1800 675 888 (24 hours a day, 365 days a year).
The required samples must be collected and submitted to NRE Tas within 48 hours. In cases where there is an obvious reason for increased mortality, samples should still be collected.
Note: where there is significant mortality or production loss associated with respiratory or nervous signs and depression, NRE Tas will attend and collect samples.
Samples must be submitted to the Animal Health Laboratories or NRE Tas must be notified directly of any samples submitted to other laboratories for any testing.
What records do producers have to keep?
Producers are required to keep vaccination records for 3 years. These must include:
name and address of the owner of the chickens,
name, address and contact details of the person who administered the vaccine,
date of vaccination, number and details of the birds vaccinated,
name and batch details of the vaccine used,
address where the vaccine was administered.
NRE Tas audits compliance with the compulsory vaccination program and vaccination records need to be provided to an NRE Tas officer on request. If you buy vaccinated chickens, the supplier needs to provide you with a copy of the vaccination history of the purchased chickens and these records also need to be kept for three years
Operators of all farms must also keep production records as well as records of bird mortalities and unusual signs, all vendor declarations for introduced birds and the results of any testing conducted under the Newcastle Disease Management Plan Requirements.
It is very important for all poultry producers to maintain high biosecurity standards. Biosecurity standards have been agreed nationally between governments and the poultry industry.
Key points to remember include:
Always buy your birds from a reputable breeder.
Know the health status of any birds that you purchase and the flock from which they came.
Quarantine new birds for at least 30 days before introducing them into your flock and feed and clean quarantined birds after you have tended to other birds.
Ensure water supply to poultry is from a clean bore, from a chlorinated mains water supply or, if either of these options is not available, treat water supply with chlorine.
Clean and disinfect water containers and feed troughs regularly.
Prevent contact between poultry and wild birds—restrict poultry access to open ponds and dams.
Ensure wild birds and pest animals cannot access and contaminate poultry feed supplies.
Restrict visitor access to poultry sheds/areas, and ensure those that do access these areas wear clean protective clothing and use a footbath prior to entry. Keep a record of all visitors to the property.
Observe your birds regularly and report any unusual symptoms or suspected disease in your birds
immediately to your local veterinarian, NRE Tas, or the
Emergency Animal Disease Hotline
1800 675 888
Further information about biosecurity measures that should be taken to minimise the risk of disease is available at the following sites:
If any producer organisation or groups of producers require additional information or advice, please contact the Animal Biosecurity and Welfare Branch on (03) 6165 3777 or emailAnimalDisease.Enquiries@nre.tas.gov.au
Or visit the Animal Health Australia website Newcastle Disease Management.