Whether you are a backyard farmer or you own a million birds capacity farm, you have got a duty to not only raise healthy poultry for profit maximization, but you also owe the final consumer a duty to provide safe and wholesome poultry and poultry products. These cannot be achieved without a proper grasp of diseases prevention and control strategies in poultry farming.
Diseases remain major threats to poultry production in Nigeria and have been responsible for severe economic losses and collapse of numerous poultry ventures. Poultry profitability is under constant threat due to losses from mortalities, poor growth, drop in egg production, poor meat quality, and risk of human infections and attendant high cost of interventions (Veterinary, medications). The farmer must respond to this threat through a proper investment in knowledge and practices of efficient poultry health management strategies by leveraging on expertise and technologies available within the industry.
Within the production level of the value chain, there are three critical levels that must be managed to ensure healthy birds namely:
- Disease Prevention
- Early Detection
The saying that “prevention is better than cure” is best applicable to poultry flocks. This is simply because poultry birds are so sensitive that recovery from diseases is often very slow and poor. Plus, it is far cheaper to prevent an outbreak than to cure.
The following are some disease prevention strategies for poultry flocks.
- Proper stock selection: The foundation of raising healthy birds is obtaining healthy chicks with good genetic traits from a reputable source. A good understanding of the health and vaccination history of your stock is very crucial. Therefore, always consult with your veterinarian and experienced farmers before sourcing chicks or point of lay birds.
- Stress Reduction: Stress is a critical factor that influences bird’s vulnerability to diseases. Stress may arise from poor housing, temperature controls, noise, unnecessary relocation, thirst, and starvation. A well located and designed housing system will prevent poor ventilation, overcrowding, noise, heat and cold stress.
- Balanced Nutrition: Serving balanced nutrition in the right quantity will improve bird’s immunity to diseases and reduce chances of ill health. Adequate water supply helps in better functioning of systems, improves birds vitality and hormonal balance to counter stress
- Biosecurity: Biosecurity is a term used to describe a set of practices and behaviors adopted by farmers aimed at preventing the entry and spread of infectious diseases into and from farms. Biosecurity is best viewed as a risk reduction strategy employed on farms. A proper biosecurity plan should be designed specifically for each farm by the vet. Biosecurity basically entails isolation, traffic control, and hygiene.
Isolation involves a set of physical and temporal procedures that are aimed to minimize contact between infected and healthy birds (directly and indirectly). Traffic control is simply to reduce human, and vehicular traffic into and within farms, (only essential visitors should be allowed) while Hygiene involves cleaning and disinfection of housing, environment, and equipment to get rid of all harmful bacteria and Viruses.
- Strategic Vaccination: The advances in technologies have enabled farmers to properly prevent diseases outbreaks through vaccination. Vaccination is the process of challenging healthy chickens with a ‘weakened’ version of a particular disease entity, in order to “arouse” the body’s protective substance called antibody without causing disease in the birds. In other words, vaccines, when administered, produce immunity against diseases.
“Most important poultry diseases are preventable through vaccines.”
Immunity is achieved when an animal is completely protected from a particular disease. Vaccines are administered to birds based on expert consideration of the age, sex, risk level of the flock, failure to follow a schedule as designed by the vet stating vaccination type, route of administration and dates to be administered (vaccination schedule).
The earlier the signs of ill health are detected in a flock, the better the odds of a successful management intervention. This critical practice requires a good team approach from the farmer, attendants, and the Veterinarian.
The veterinarian carries out routine visits to check the health of the flock, takes samples from birds, feed, water and environment to the lab when necessary for analysis; checks records and produces a medication and management protocol for the flock in question or for the entire farm. The farmers and attendants must be open with the veterinarian so as to reach judicious decisions.
A good intervention programme for poultry health must consider the following:
- Competence of Service Provider: A competent veterinarian will not only diagnose correctly but will suggest the appropriate intervention strategy which must not always involve drug administration.
- Quality of Medication: In interventions requiring medication, the quality of the drugs is key to a successful outcome. Ensure that drugs are purchased from licensed and reputable sources.
- Cost of Intervention: Farmer’s goal of minimizing cost and improved profitability must be taken into consideration in any intervention. A good Vet will charge reasonably for his services while considering the cost of intervention and profitability of the farmer
- Animal Welfare: the welfare of the animals should be considered during intervention and only humane methods that will minimize unnecessary stress on the birds should be employed.
- Public Health and Food Safety Measures: should be put into consideration especially when medications are used on poultry flock. Observance of withdrawal periods should be recommended by the veterinarian. Misuse of Antibiotics in poultry could lead to Antibiotic resistance in the human population.
- Communication: The veterinarian and farmers must maintain constant communication about the response to therapy and other observations during and after completion of the treatment regimen. Openness in communication is key.
- Records: Proper records of all medications used, advice given by Vet, the timing of medication and any adverse effects observed; should be kept and made accessible.
- Prompt Interventions: Once problems have been identified and recommendations made, it is wiser to commence intervention immediately. The earlier treatment is commenced, the higher the chances of restoration of health and production performance in a flock.
It is very clear from the foregoing that raising healthy birds is no easy task, yet quite possible with a good investment in knowledge and technical expertise.
The producer must be conscious of the implication of his actions and inactions on the animal welfare and public health at all times without neglecting the profitability of his venture.
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About Shehu Shamsudeen
I am a Veterinarian with a decade experience in poultry and livestock health and enterprise management. I have a flair for helping farmers improve their profitability through innovative animal health strategies.
Connect with him on Facebook and Linkedin @ Shehu Shamsudeen