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My chicks have signs of paralysis, what could be the issue?

By Dr Watson Messo

Q: Greetings Dr Messo, my name is Anthony Mugatha, working for a farm. My chicks have been showing signs of paralysis, neck twisting. The feeds they are consuming have sesame as source of protein. There are two categories, the older birds of 4 months affected and the younger 2 months old do not show similar signs. I have tried calcium supplementation, but they don’t show any improvement. I thought of Mareks disease as the possible cause but not sure, what is your advice?

A: For farmers who have kept chickens for a long time and have had various challenges in terms of disease, insufficient feed or nutritional disorders, a case of paralysis and neck twisting would be very suggestive of Newcastle disease.

My first question for you would be naturally to know your vaccination history or what we refer to us the health and welfare plan.

In this modern age of precision farming, it is important to have a written down vaccination programme showing all scheduled events and when the interventions were done.

All birds kept for more than 40 days must have been vaccinated against Marek’s at the hatchery on day one. It is also becoming necessary to do Newcastle and Infectious bronchitis vaccinations at the same time before leaving the hatchery.

If indeed the older birds were affected by Newcastle disease, even the younger flocks would be infected but because of the effective vaccination history, they may not show the signs.

I would suggest you take samples of birds showing these signs for culling and carrying out a post mortem examination by a qualified veterinarian. Presumptive diagnosis can only be deduced if there are obvious pin point haemorrhages in the mucosa of the proventriculus and along the gut especially the Payer’s patches and the caecal tonsils. Confirmed diagnosis can only be done with specific isolation of the virus, done at central veterinary laboratories.

Sesame seed oil is a good source of oil (48%), protein (21%), starch (13,5%) and crude ash of 5.3% and is frequently included in poultry diets in Arabic speaking countries. It is a good antioxidant with effective antimicrobial properties and an emulsifier. It cannot be a source of the problems.

You said you tried calcium supplementation but to no vail. It is common for farmers in such dilemma to run to agrovets and ask for any assistance to deal with their situations and the most common prescriptions given to them is DCP powders, or other calcium supplements.

I would have expected the younger flocks to be affected as well, a good proximate analysis of the feed can go a long way in solving lameness related to calcium/Manganese/magnesium balance. You should also try Vitamin B complex solution.

I don’t think Marek’s would be associated with this condition in the older birds and spare the younger birds which are at the highest risk. I would rule it out.

In conclusion, visiting poultry veterinary laboratory, Kenchic Headquarters, Exsan House is a good avenue for poultry farmers who are encountering complex situations that require laboratory interventions.

[Dr Watson Messo Odwako, Head Veterinarian, Kenchic Limited, vet@kenchic.com]

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