Care and caution keep poultry disease-free
Farmer's Weekly|May 28, 2021
As every chicken producer can attest, keeping the birds in optimal health is a finicky task, and failure can lead to serious losses. This means that a meticulous biosecurity plan is a top priority. Lindi Botha spoke to broiler producer Ben-Chris Bronkhorst about putting the right systems in place and ensuring that they run efficiently.
Lindi Botha

FAST FACTS

Good biosecurity starts with cleaning the chicken houses thoroughly.

Disinfectants should be mixed and applied correctly.

Farm staff need to stay on the lookout for symptoms of disease in the birds.

Poultry farmer Ben-Chris Bronkhorst of Hazyview, Mpumalanga, is quick to point out that he is paranoid about the health of his chickens. “I keep an eye on them and always lookout for a problem. If I don’t consciously do so, I can miss something and easily lose 100 chickens overnight to an illness.

“I instruct my staff to do the same. Are the birds sneezing, lying down too much, shaking their heads, or just generally too inactive? These are the first signs that something is amiss and I need to remedy the situation.”

While Bronkhorst has been farming for only three years, the energy and passion with which he has taken over the family poultry business, Eliza Chicks, has ensured a well-run operation with minimal incidence of disease outbreaks in the flock. Eliza Chicks produces 4 000 broilers a week. Day-old chicks are sourced in Ermelo, Mpumalanga, and Pretoria, Gauteng, and sold at six weeks, mostly to the informal market.

DISEASES

Bronkhorst notes that while avian influenza is the most economically devastating disease for a poultry farm, it is rare, and he managed to keep it at bay during the big outbreak in 2017.

“But you have to have all the protocols in place to ensure that if an outbreak does occur, it doesn’t reach your farm. And having the correct procedures in place helps to ensure that other diseases don’t develop on the farm either.”

He highlights coccidiosis and the common cold as the most prevalent issues to watch out for.

“Coccidiosis is a bacterium that’s already present in the chicken’s guts, but it can become a problem if it increases rapidly. Any stress placed on the chickens will cause the bacteria to multiply. This includes low temperatures, lack of water for too long, or too much handling.”

According to Bronkhorst, chickens can develop a cold due to poor air quality or low temperatures, and telltale signs are sneezing or coughing.

Diarrhoea can also be a problem, but is not usually serious. It can be caused by a high intake of water.

Bronkhorst pays close attention to the colour of the birds’ faeces, as this can provide clues about their general health. “A maroon colour indicates blood in the faeces, which is most likely caused by coccidiosis. If the faeces is white, it could be a sign of a cold, as the [mucus] would cause the whiteness.”

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