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Basic rules to prevent disease outbreak in flock

By Dr Watson Messo

Flock lockdown has been practised by commercial poultry farmers for years now and we in the industry are wondering why Kenyans are so worried about possibility of sending this country into lockdown to contain Covid-19. We have been doing it and for those familiar with commercial poultry farming, poultry production is a dynamic process; the production environment can change and will change because of local disease conditions, for example, Avian influenza. Here are five principles of flock biosecurity that have kept infectious poultry diseases at bay.

Principle  #1: Everyone dealing with poultry must understand what Biosecurity is.

The first requirement in any production of any kind be it chickens, turkeys, ostriches, guinea fowl or duck farming, is the need to have a good grasp of what is required in running a successful bio-secure environment. Everyone involved in poultry production, whether owner, manager, farmworker, contractor, driver or veterinarian, must have a sound knowledge of the objective of biosecurity and what it means in practice.

Biosecurity is basically defined as all the measures which can or should be taken to prevent viruses, bacteria, fungi, protozoa, parasites, insects, rodents, and wild birds from infecting your birds and causing harm or infection.

Principle #2: Minimise contact with contagious disease agents/organism

This is the principle built on the fact that some poultry diseases are contagious in nature and therefore the fundamental principle involved in biosecurity is the avoidance of contact with a source of disease or contagion.

The immediate environment of the stock is considered ‘clean’ and everything that is outside the environment is ‘dirty’. 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. It simply means that any item, people or equipment moving into a chicken coop must be cleaned and thoroughly disinfected before being allowed into the flock area. We have used this principle many times to limit unnecessary visitation of poultry units by friends, relatives, fellow members of ‘chamas’  and it has worked very well in taming such diseases like Gumboro, Fowl Typhoid, fowl cholera and Coryza.

Principle  #3: Keep single age flocks at any given time in a single site

 In any poultry production system, there are some specific diseases for specific ages, species of birds, strains and seasons of the year. It is therefore important that a farmer keeping layer flocks in one site should not rear broilers or ducks or ostriches concurrently in the same site at proximity. In the same breath, a farmer keeping a one-year-old flock should not introduce day-old pullets in the same unit, if this happens, the younger flocks with naïve immune system or immature immunity will be at risk of contracting infections like coccidiosis, Gumboro. If for lack of adequate space and multiage flocks are kept in one site, as we see it in urban farming set-up, then farm workers must visit different units in order of age, starting from youngest to oldest.

Principle #4: At the end of one crop and before the next placement, a thorough cleaning and decontamination must be done

After depopulation, all old litter or manure must be removed and disposed at least one kilometre away from the farm. This is followed by dry cleaning within and around the units, washing with water and disinfectant and finally spraying with appropriate disinfectant. Between flocks, it is a good practice to eliminate any rodents. Rodents carry many diseases that adversely affect the health of poultry. A one-metre barrier around each house free of grass (preferably a concrete) must be maintained to prevent rodents from entering poultry houses. You must allow the units to rest for at least 21 days before allowing the next flock.

Principle #5: Ensure water and feed are fit and appropriate for the type of flock

Ensure that the feed is of high quality and the drinking water is always safe and portable, this is done by regular bacteriological testing from time to time.

[The writer is a vet at Kenchic [email protected]]

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