Lately, as poultry farming is shifting from subsistence to commercialisation, there is need to invest in management to optimise productivity. There is a huge gap in technical expertise regarding management that needs to be filled. One of the arms of management entails health.
To manage health in poultry means preventing and treating the already existing disease, but then it is always cheaper to block any disease that can threaten the health of birds in a farm .Hygiene is recognised as the efficient and effective means of preventative measure in poultry health.
Hygiene has always been overlooked in poultry since it is not a direct cause of the disease but a predisposing factor (that which enables or magnifies the chances of disease occurrence). This is due to the fact that poor hygiene is not a pathogen (disease causing microorganism), and there is never a time that it will present itself in lab blood tests or bird`s post-mortem in case of disease outbreak in a flock as a direct cause of a disease.
Good hygiene is not only practically sound but it is also economical as it goes hand in hand with public health. Any negligence in this area can negatively impact on profitability of the enterprise and the cost of diseases and mortalities, low productivity and financial losses are certain.
One of the requirements for effective health management is understanding the nature and cause of diseases. It is important to pinpoint that although most of the time poor hygiene is not the direct cause of the disease, it plays a huge role in development, incubation and duration of the pathogen
A poor hygienic environment is itself a breeding ground for contamination. It harbours all harmful pathogens that causes diseases (viruses, bacteria, parasites, fungi, protozoa). All of these pathogens are causes of different types of diseases present in poultry. Poor hygiene in poultry houses makes it difficult also to control diseases and the cycle of transmission is almost impossible to break.
Poor hygiene also intensifies respiratory disease occurrence in poultry due to the fact that with accumulation of waste on the ground, Ammonia gas that builds up from the birds` droppings causes breathing complications in birds leading to mortality.
Ways of practicing good hygiene to minimise prevalence of diseases;
- Litter management-it is important to clean and change bedding on floors to minimise the accumulation of waste. Most of the diseases such as coccidiosis are transmitted by droppings therefore good hygiene and sanitation is highly advised. It is also encouraged that bedding should be of a material that absorbs moisture optimally to keep the house drier for a longer time.
- Breaking a cycle of transmissible diseases by thoroughly cleaning and disinfecting the house after every batch disposed. This is done mostly in brooding houses where chicks are kept for a shorter time and then sold or taken to another shelter.
- Good hygiene is not only practiced in poultry houses, but also in hatcheries, where diseases such as Aspergillosis and Salmonellosis are common. In this case where day old chicks become infected at such young age, early mortalities are experienced. In severe cases, the chicks cannot be hatched at all due to that contamination, hence loss. Aspergillosis, as seen in a contaminated egg
- It is important for a farmer to buy chickens where hygeine and biosecurity is highly regarded to avoid buying carrier birds ( that already have the disease) as that will introduce the disease to the flock.
- Feeders and drinkers should be washed daily before feeding birds
- For laying and breeder hens, wood shavings or any material used for nesting should be changed as per need
- Inspection for mites infestation in nests, poultry houses and chickens should be done regularly and more especially in warmer temperatures. Karbadust or any product for mites control should be used.
- Proper feed storage is included as one of hygienic measures for the health of birds to prevent mould.
- Good hygiene by farm workers is highly critical as people can be good transmitters of pathogens that might cause diseases to the flock. It is therefore advised that access by visitors should be prohibited or be closely monitored.
- Temperature or climatic conditions should also be considered when it comes to hygiene as hotter climate intensifies the chances of disease prevalence.
Good hygiene in poultry farming should be best incorporated in everyday management to minimise disease occurrences and unnecessary financial losses due to mortalities. It is not only for the welfare and financial security of the farmer but also public health. Diseases such as Salmonellosis can be transmitted to humans from consumption of poultry products (meat and eggs) as well.
Note to a farmer: Prevention is ‘cheaper’ that Cure