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Six tips for limiting antibiotics in birds

Many poultry farmers are now under pressure to grow their birds without the use of antibiotics or alternatively use them prudently following prescription by a qualified vet.

Consumers, Governments, and many other industry players are driving this demand with the recognition that anti-microbial resistance is becoming a reality and a public health concern to humans.

Are you prepared to transition your production system to align to this new reality of raising your birds profitably with minimum use of anti-microbials? Here are 6 tips to get you started.

1.       Biosecurity as a pillar to flock health protection

Bio-security in poultry refers to all measures which are undertaken to prevent disease-causing organisms from infecting your birds and causing harm.

The first assumption is to consider the immediate environment of the flock as a ‘clean area’ and that everything outside the environment as ‘dirty area’.

Anything that moves from the ‘dirty’ area to the ‘clean’ area should be clean and disinfected. You should create barriers around your flocks to avoid unnecessary access by people, other forms of animals, rodents, pests, and wild birds.

Each site should have the smallest number of bird types and ages consistent with the business objectives. You should avoid keeping birds of different ages in one unit and restrain from keeping pigs and poultry in proximity.

In cases where farmers want to keep flocks of different ages, then each flock MUST be housed separately.

2.       Poultry hygiene and sanitation

The single most important factor in keeping poultry healthy is maintaining good hygiene.

Healthy parents and hygienic hatchery conditions contribute greatly to disease-free progeny chicks. Source your chicks wisely.

Good hygiene standards will reduce disease challenges in your flocks. Appropriate decontamination procedures should be in place between one crop and the next.

In this case, we consider everything that had contact with the previous flock to be ‘dirty’ until it is effectively cleaned, sanitized, and disinfected.

The units, feeders, waterers, uniforms, boots, nest boxes, etc. used in the previous crop must be subjected to a decontamination process and a 14-21 days’ rest period before restocking.

Wash the house with water and soap starting from the roof followed by the walls and finally the floor.

Allow the house to dry before spraying the whole house with disinfectant solution again starting from the roof.

Simultaneously, wash and disinfect all the equipment from the house. Repair and maintenance to the house and / equipment should be done during this time.

3.       Good water management in poultry farms

Water is an essential nutrient that impacts virtually all physiological functions. Water comprises 65-78% of the body composition of a bird depending on age.

Factors including temperature, relative humidity, diet composition, and rate of body weight gain influence water intake. Good water quality is vital to an efficient broiler or layer production.

Measurements of water quality should include pH, mineral levels, and the degree of microbial contamination. It is essential that water consumption increases over time.

If water consumption decreases at any point, bird health, environment, and/or managerial techniques should be re-assessed.

Chronic poor performance may indicate contaminated water and requires prompt testing. When testing water, evaluating the total coliform bacterial count is important, at high levels can cause disease.

4.       Feed quality

Feed as an input is very critical in the health of the birds and must be purchased or sourced from reputable manufacturers.

Contaminated feed can be the source of enteric infections, nutritional diarrhOea, fowl typhoid, E. coli infections, and Navel ill.

5.       Gut health products

In today’s world, there are many probiotics and prebiotics that are in use in animal feed to stabilize intestinal flora.

According to WHO/FAO (2001) probiotics are, ‘’live microorganisms which when administered in adequate amounts confer a health benefit on the host’’.

Prebiotics on the other hand are carbohydrates that are used in feed to positively influence intestinal flora by promoting good intestinal microbes.

6.       Vaccination

Proper vaccination is an essential part of a good poultry management program and for the success of any poultry operation.

Effective preventive procedures such as immunization protect hundreds of millions of poultry worldwide from many contagious and deadly diseases and have resulted in improved flock health and production efficiency.

Immunization cannot be a substitute for poor biosecurity and sanitation.

Thus, vaccination programs may not totally protect birds that are under stress or in unhygienic conditions.

For more information, contact Dr Watson Messo Odwako, watsonmesso@yahoo.com, Head Vet @ Kenchic Limited

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