Chickens are subjected to different diseases with respect to the present state of the weather condition; different poultry diseases prevail at different seasons. Some diseases are common during the dry season while some occur mainly during the rainy or cold season. These two weather conditions are beneficial factors for the outbreak of different poultry diseases.
As a prudent poultry farmer, it is required of you to prepare for every season in order to maintain your production level. The control of poultry diseases has a detrimental effect on the cost of production; this is why most poultry farmers have tractable medication and vaccination schedules.
In this article, I would be sharing with you four (4) poultry diseases that are more virulent during the cold season and management tips to adopt during the cold season to ensure the performance of your birds, broilers, and layers, is not compromised.
The cold season is usually a season that distinguishes between a savvy and a beginner in the poultry industry. You would agree with me that lots of modifications are done to ensure the productivity of the flock is not compromised; talk of the lighting schedule, feed and feeding pattern, ventilation, to mention a few.
The following diseases are common during the rainy or cold season:
1. Infectious Bursal Disease (Gumboro)
Gumboro is a viral infection that mostly affects immature birds aged between 3 and 18 weeks. This poultry disease targets the bursal component of the immune system resulting in immunosuppression and susceptibility to secondary infections; thereby creating an avenue for other diseases and infections to manifest,
Signs of Gumboro disease
When your birds are down on Gumboro disease, they exhibit the following signs.
Chickens may exhibit severe prostration, in-coordination, watery diarrhea, soiled vent feathers, vent picking, and inflammation of the cloaca.
Gumboro disease is highly contagious with flock morbidity of typically 100 percent, and mortality can range from 5–20 percent.
Prevention and Treatment of Gumboro Disease
Unfortunately, there is no effective treatment for this disease, therefore, depopulation of infected flocks and rigorous disinfection of contaminated farms is advisable.
Usually, the level of maternal immunity and vaccination reduces susceptibility to this infection during the rainy season.
The outbreak of fowl pox disease is highly dependent on the breeding time of mosquitoes or blood-sucking insects, which coincides with the rains.
The insects play a major role as vectors in the transmission of the poxvirus. The disease may occur at any age and is highly contagious attacking the skin and surface of the upper alimentary and respiratory tract leading to the formation of wounds that progress to thick scabs.
Signs of Fowlpox Disease
Secondary infection of the pox results in birds being weak and emaciated due to loss of appetite, difficulty in swallowing and breathing, swollen eyelids leading to the closure of one or both eyes and soiled feathers.
Prevention and Treatment of Fowlpox disease
The infection has no treatment but it is possible to vaccinate to stop the outbreak.
Vaccinate healthy birds at the age of 6-9 weeks, and this is done once as it provides lifetime immunity. Eliminate standing water and all mosquito habitats to control mosquitoes.
Isolate or cull infected birds to remove the source of the virus.
3. Fowl cholera:
Fowl cholera affects birds older than 6 weeks. In acute outbreaks, the first warning sign is usually the sudden death of birds that initially appeared healthy.
Signs of fowl cholera
In chronic cases, affected birds exhibit labored breathing, diarrhea (wet grey, yellow or green droppings), loss of appetite, ruffled feathers, drooping wings, and tail feathers and the tendency of bird to sit quietly with their heads tucked in and eyes partly closed.
Depending on the localization of the disease, it may result in lameness and swelling of legs or wing joints or result in twisted neck, swelling around the eyes and discharge from beak or nostril. Symptoms of the chronic form may be confused with fowl typhoid.
4. E-coli and Salmonella:
E-coli and Salmonella usually occur as secondary infections following immuno-suppression and poor sanitation resulting from wet conditions.
Signs of E-coli and Salmonella
The common signs of E-coli and Salmonella include breathing difficulties, appetite loss, depression, infection of the umbilical stump (omphalitis) and low growth rates.
Prevention and Treatment of E-coli and Salmonella
Management of this disease can be achieved by oral administration of broad-spectrum antibiotics and general sanitation management.
During the cold season, the humidity is likely to increase resulting to damp litter or feeds which provide favourable environment for fungus (Aspergillosis) to flourish; the birds inhale the spores, which grow into visible lesions as green and yellow nodules that completely fill the lungs causing a lot of respiratory discomforts.
High incidences of diseases under free-range during the cold season are due to uncontrolled exposure of birds to environmental influence, absence of housing, lack of routine vaccination and adequate feeding while in the case of intensification, the degree of stocking density and inadequate ventilation highly promotes the spread rate of the diseases.
Cold Season Management Tips In Poultry Farms
During the cold period, birds increase their level of feed intake to generate heat and stay warm. However, for a farmer, increasing the level of feed provision raises the cost of production besides wastage of nutrients that are not needed for heat generation.
To reduce costs and avoid wastage, energy-rich sources like oil/fat should be added to the diet or level of other nutrients may be reduced keeping the energy at the same level.
In the free-range system, provide supplementary feeding to the birds to meet their nutrient deficit. Consider providing your birds with warm water periodically during this rainy season to encourage consumption and help them keep warm without using up energy reserved in the process.
With the rain, birds may encounter standing water (mostly in free-range) and end-up drinking from the ground leading to parasitic infestation from intestinal worms.
Dewormers administered after every three months help in the management of worms, but you should remember the product withdrawal period as specified by the manufacturer.
Poultry house should be designed in such a way that it provides all the comfort required by birds during the cold season while considering ventilation as well.
In regions where it rains heavily, the floor should be raised with a generous roof overhang, particularly over the entrance.
The raised floor can be a solid platform of the earth to prevent floods. The orientation of a building with respect to wind and sun consequently influence temperature, and light on different external surfaces.
With better management, your flock will remain healthy and productive throughout the cold season.
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