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Home / Smart Harvest

Managing newcastle disease in your birds

John Waswa vaccinating chicks using herbal medicine. [Benjamin Sakwa, Standard]

Every poultry farmer keeping large number of birds is concerned about three or four issues while raising their flocks to maturity.

1. The farmer's key objective is to raise their flocks with minimum mortality losses; in other words, to raise birds with high survival rates. Broiler farmers are comfortable if they can keep 96 per cent or more birds alive until they are sold off at 33-37 days of age, while layer farmers accept a survival rate of 90 per cent over a period of 18 -22 months.

2.A farmer is also concerned about the cost of raising their flocks to full production, although this is related to the first point. The main concern here is the direct cost of feeding these birds up to the point of sale of meat or eggs. Feed cost will only comprise 70 per cent of the total production cost requirement to produce meat or eggs. For broiler farmer, it will require 1.8kg of feed to produce 1.00 kg of live weight while a layer farmer will target 1 kg of feed to produce 6 eggs. The farmers’ dilemma is to use as little feed to produce as more meat or eggs as possible.

3.  The last concern for farmers is the availability of the market and the best margin that they can fetch from the customers’ year in year-round.

As farmers are working day in and day out to get the best out of their investments, Newcastle disease is still the major challenge that the poultry stakeholders, industry players, veterinary health experts, governments and farmers must deal with. Many countries in the developed world have managed to eradicate this condition by following strict vaccination and bio-security programmes.

To bring this case closer home, a friend recently posted a scenario on two farms: one with a flock of 500 and the other 2,000 of different ages. There was moderate mortality in the two farms, from normal to high mortality in 2-4 days and clinically the birds were discharging greenish diarrhoea. They were also showing nervous signs of star gazing, had difficulty in breathing, eggs produced during this period were weak, deformed with discoloured shell and production dropped. Feed intake dropped. In my opinion and many years of experience, these signs and symptoms are closely related to Newcastle disease.

This is a disease of all ages of birds and can affect up to 200 species. The best way to confirm the presence of this condition is to contact your nearest veterinarian officer.

The good news is that there are vaccines that are available in the market and if used properly can reduce or minimise losses drastically. Farmers can also practice good bio-security measures to reduce field challenge and help eradicate this condition in farms.

Bio-security Measures

1. Avoid direct contact of healthy birds with sick ones and their droppings and nasal discharge.

2. Avoid contact with people, their clothes shoes who were in contact with infected flocks.

3. Remember wild birds are healthy carriers of the virus, so keep your flocks in bird proof units or barns.

4.Control movement of your staff; no visits to kuku markets and neighbouring farms.

5.Do proper cleaning and disinfection of your sites before arrival of new flock.

6. Practice all- in all- out flocks’ principle avoid mixing flocks of different ages in one site.


1. Buy vaccinated chicks at the hatchery

2. Do a booster vaccination at 2 weeks through eye drop method, consult your local vet.

3. Repeat vaccinations at 3,4,9,14,16 weeks with live vaccines with advice of your local vet depending on disease challenge in your area and the type of bird you are keeping.

4. For birds in egg production, do a killed vaccination and there after every 4-10 weeks on advice by your vet.

[For more information contact Dr Watson Messo Odwako, Company Veterinarian at Kenchic Limited

[email protected]]      

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