Coccidiosis is a poultry disease that has long been associated with indigenous chickens reared on a free-range system for many years and is occasionally seen among wild and game birds. It is caused by a protozoal organism, Eimeria, that invades the intestinal lining of poultry following direct ingestion from contaminated litter. While inside the intestinal gut of a chicken, they destroy the inner linings of the gut hence disrupting completely the ability of the chicken to digest and assimilate nutrients for growth and production. The disease-causing organisms are found anywhere birds are reared or kept.
Why is this disease important?
Coccidiosis is a major economic disease impacting the poultry industry globally and is the most encountered. Once chickens are infected, the growth rates are retarded. This means that the chickens for meat production will not be able to meet the market weight in time, leading to post-harvest losses. For chickens in lay, infection results in drop in egg production and if not treated will lead to death, a huge loss to our poultry keepers.
How to tell when the flock is infected
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Coccidiosis is a disease of birds of all ages but is more commonly seen in slow-growing birds. Broilers also get infected in the 3rd week of growing. The presence of loose faecal droppings, diarrhoea, and mucoid faeces sometimes with fresh blood stains, should be an awakening call to farmers experiencing disease in the flock. At the farm level, look out for birds showing faecal droppings that are yellow to orange in colour and in severe cases red loose poop. Such a flock needs to be treated. If nothing is done at this stage, birds tend to lose appetite, and drop in weight and if they are laying, they drop in egg production. If you do not report these signs to your nearest vet or chick supplier, you are likely to see mortality increasing and can reach 10% within a period of 3 weeks. If noticed in good time and appropriate treatment is done, birds tend to recover quickly within 10-14 days. In mild or sub-clinal infection, birds lose performance in terms of poor growth rates, drop in egg production and fertility and high feed costs due to poor feed utilization.
How to control and manage infection
Keeping birds in-house will go a long way in reducing the incidence of infection, the cocci eggs are known to live for long in the soil, so earthen floors predispose birds to this condition. Good impaction of your earthen floors in poultry units with a mixture of cement and clay soil is one step in reducing the chances of disease proliferation. Stop or avoid unnecessary visits to poultry units.
Seal off your units against any access to rodents, wild birds and beetles using conventional traps and baits as acceptable by the state authorities. Select the most appropriate disinfectants containing Glutaraldehyde components for a good and thorough clean-down followed by at least a 21 days rest period before the next placement. Ensure your litter in the flock unit is always dry and friable all the time. Repair any water leaks and ensure the units are properly ventilated all the time to remove any excess moisture. Dry litter will reduce the extreme multiplication of the cocci eggs in the litter. Stick to the correct stocking density for the type of bird and system of production.
If everything does not work for you, consider vaccination of the next flocks. This option is however very expensive and only done for elite birds. Treat diarrheal disease immediately after they are noticed.
The good news is that there are plenty of anticoccidial products that can be used to treat affected flocks, consult your veterinarian for the right choice of drugs for your flocks. The treatment can be done in soluble drinking water or through feeds.
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