1. Ideal farm location and housing

Choose and construct a unit away from other poultry facilities. The aim is to reduce any contact of your flocks with any infected flock in the vicinity. Do not put your farm too close to the road with high traffic. I suggest about 100 metres from the nearest road. Less infection pressure means less need for antibiotics.

2. Cleaning, disinfection and downtime

A good cleaning job will reduce 80 per cent of disease-causing agents. After the initial crop of birds are disposed or sold, a thorough dry cleaning and removal of old litter, dirt, dust from units, equipment is important to reduce the bacterial and viral load in the chicken house. This is followed by a wet phase where the roof, walls, floor and equipment are cleaned with water and disinfected with appropriate chemical. After disinfection, let the unit rest for 14-21 days before re-stocking.

3. All- in all- out programme

Always keep only birds of same age and type in proximity at any given time. This phenomenon is guided by the known fact that most poultry diseases are age-related. Younger birds are more prone to diseases compared to adult birds and are likely to suffer more from their adult neighbours.

4. Chick quality- maternal protection

Buy your chicks from breeders that have been properly vaccinated against most of the common poultry diseases. Such chicks have high maternally derived antibodies and are more resistant to diseases. This will save you from unnecessary antibiotics treatment.

5. Good bio-security practices

This will involve all measures placed to limit spread of germs into your flock units by creating both physical and biological barriers. The units must be locked all times and must be bird and rodent-proof to minimise disease transmission. Flock houses are kept out of bound to non- essential visitors and foot bath must always be provided with appropriate disinfectant.

6. Robust nutrition

Feed and water are two of the most important inputs that get directly into the birds. Feed comes into direct and intimate contact with the stock, so it is important that it be nutritionally and hygienically satisfactory. Water is considered as life, a good fresh, potable water is thus important in preventing disease outbreak. It is illegal to use antibiotic growth promoters in feed.

7. Good Management

The single most important disease control strategy in a new poultry farm is having knowledgeable staff in-charge of the flock. Brooding practices, growing and production management should always be top notch. Training on basic flock health care, feeding and watering techniques and ability to spot sick, isolated and depressed birds is a prerequisite for better performance. It is better to cull sick birds than pump in antibiotics to treat the entire population.

8. Disease surveillance

It is good practice to continuously monitor your feed quality, water quality, air and litter quality periodically as an early warning system. Develop a habit of consulting laboratories for correct diagnoses before prescribing antibiotics. Any antibiotic treatment without lab work is guess work.

9. Vaccination

The good news is that most poultry diseases have been around, and scientists have developed appropriate vaccines to control infections. With consultation of the local veterinarian, a good program should be worked out and executed timely and appropriately on healthy birds.

10. Animal welfare

Always provide your flocks with good environment, rich diet, clean water and quality housing. All animals need to be protected from pain, suffering and disease and therefore must be treated by qualified personnel. Antibiotics should only be used under prescription by a veterinarian.

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