Dear farmers, Happy New Year and welcome to another season of poultry farming amid challenges of high feed costs, competition from cheap products from neighbouring countries, and disease.
As we come back from festivities and into the New Year, there is high expectations that 2022 will be better than last year. The tourism sector will continue to recover as well the economy and infrastructure and agricultural trade will be expanded.
Here is a list of new year resolutions for young poultry farmers who want to plunge into this trade and for established owners who want to expand their farms.
- Poultry house siting and construction
If you are setting your poultry site for the first time, ensure that the farm is isolated away from other poultry facilities.
The poultry unit should be set back at least 200 feet from public roads and equally distanced from another unit in the same site. These precautions are necessary to prevent cross-contamination from one flock to another. Make sure that you create deterrents such as warning signs at entrances to keep people away from the farm.
Perimeter fencing with gated driveways is important in creating barriers against other animals accessing the farm. The units should have secure locks and ensure that your employees do not own other avian species where they reside.
Have a pest management program to control mice, rats, and other pests. These biosecurity measures are a critical component of disease prevention. Each site (and area!) should have the smallest number of bird types and ages consistent with the business objectives.
- Engage a good poultry attendant with good animal husbandry knowledge
The poultry world we are living in today has changed and so is the genetics of today’s birds. The poultry attendant must be able to observe birds every day for abnormal symptoms and overall flock health. Brooding stage is the single most critical period in the life of any poultry. The behaviour of the chickens is the best indicator of the temperature, especially during the night. By following some simple rules, the attendant can ensure the conformity of the chicks during this fragile period. If birds are calm and quiet, they spread equally in the house, this means they feel comfortable. The attendant must routinely analyse poultry production, feed and water consumption, and mortality records for any possible signs of problems. Dead birds must be promptly picked up and properly disposed of away from scavenging birds and dogs. Your flocks must religiously follow an updated vaccination program designed for the specific type of flock and for that locality. Everyone involved in poultry production, whether owner, manager, farmworker, contractor, driver, or veterinarian, must have a sound knowledge of the objective of bio-security and what it means in practice
- Cleaning and sanitation
Intelligent disinfection of poultry units is the key point of profitability. The survival of disease-causing organisms in the environment varies from one organism to the other. Gumboro and coccidia organisms will live for months in warm litter, while Marek’s disease agent may last from six months to years in the feathers from affected poultry.
A backbone of any biosecurity management is therefore the implementation of an effective and complete sanitation programme that comprises the cleaning and disinfection of facilities, equipment, vehicles, etc. Cleaning can be defined as the physical removal of organic material such as litter, feed, dust, droppings, secretions, and blood residues usually using pressurised water and appropriate cleaning products like detergents, while disinfection refers to the inactivation of micro-organisms.
All debris and vegetation must be cleaned up and kept clear of the production facilities. All necessary visitors allowed into the facilities must change into clean boots and coveralls before any entry.
- Prevent disease outbreak
The immediate environment of the stock is a ‘clean area’ and everything that is outside that space is a ‘dirty area’. Anything that moves from the ‘dirty’ area to the ‘clean’ area should be subject to control measures appropriate to the likely risk and status of the stock being protected.
- Source your inputs carefully
Precautions must also be applied to major inputs, where practical. The major inputs are chicks, litter (where used), feed, and water. For each of these, a specification should be prepared, agreed with the supplier, and regularly monitored.
Chicks can come with inherent illnesses, choose your supplier carefully. Feed and water are the biggest nutrients required for growth and production, so insist on good quality.