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Health Management

Vaccination and Disease Prevention

Vaccination programs vary with the area, disease exposure, strain and virulence of the pathogen involved and must be designed to meet the needs of the particular local conditions. Therefore, specific recommendations for an individual farm cannot be given in this guide. Competent poultry veterinarians should be consulted regularly for revisions of vaccination and medication programs as well as for disease preventive management practices. Medication practices such as the use of antibiotics and coccidiostats in the feed should also be under the direction of a veterinarian with special training and experience in avian pathology.

General Principles

Some helpful tips for vaccination programs in any location are: ƒ

  • Record the following information for permanent flock records. The vaccine manufacturer, the serial number, the date of vaccination, reaction observed (if any), and any medication currently in use.
  • Vaccinate only healthy chickens. If the flock is unhealthy or under stress from any cause, delay the vaccination until the flock has recovered.
  • Do not dilute or “cut” the vaccine. The weakened vaccine may fail to stimulate adequate immune response in the birds. Be sure that vaccines are not out-dated, that they have been stored and handled properly, and that all vaccinating equipment has been thoroughly cleaned and dried before storing.
  • For water vaccination, add powdered skim milk to the water at the rate of 500 gms/ 200 liters or 50 gms/ 20 liters before adding the vaccine. This will help to neutralize chlorine, heavy metals, acidity, or alkalinity in the water supply which might destroy the virus in the vaccine and reduce potency. When vaccine is to be administered with a proportioner, the quantity of milk must be adjusted to facilitate troublefree functioning of the proportioner and good distribution of vaccine to all birds.

Flock Health Monitoring

Serological data obtained at maturity (18 – 20 weeks) is a good method for evaluating the immune status of a parent flock prior to production. Such data also serves as an immune status baseline for determining whether a field infection has occurred when production drops are observed. It is recommended to submit 20 good serum samples to a laboratory one or two weeks prior to the pullets being placed in the lay house to establish freedom from certain diseases such as Mg or Ms prior to onset of production. This type of program can also be the base for a good flock profiling system. Serological data can give valuable information on the titer levels for a number of disease causing agents. Working with a poultry laboratory in setting up a profiling system, can help to make better evaluations of vaccination programs and flock conditions.

Coccidiosis Control

Coccidiosis is a protozoal disease affecting the intestinal tract. Normally, the disease occurs during the brooding or growing stages, but may occur later in life if good immunity is not established. Outbreaks vary in degree of severity from mild with no clinical signs, to severe with high mortality. Various treatment and control programs are available to the producer. The best programs are designed to establish natural immunity by means of controlled exposure – vaccination and appropriate litter management. The general guidelines for use of coccidiostats are:

  • Include coccidiostats at appropriate preventative levels in starter feed.
  • Decrease coccidiostat by 25 % at about six weeks of age.
  • Continue to decrease the coccidiostat until it is entirely removed from the feed by fourteen weeks of age.

Vaccination is another option to consider in a coccidiosis control program. Control by means of vaccination requires uniform application of the vaccine according to label directions, sound poultry husbandry practices and proper nutrition. With any coccidiosis control program, litter moisture levels of 30 to 35 % are optimal to maintain coccidia at levels necessary for establishing immunity without causing clinical disease. Never use coccidiostat in the feed when pullets are already vaccinated against coccidiosis.

Sanitation and Biosecurity at the Breeder Farm

  • Locate breeding farms in geographically isolated areas away from all other concentrations of poultry, if possible.
  • Only authorized vehicles and personnel should be permitted into the farm.
  • The farm design should provide optimal isolation between houses and separation of laying and rearing units.
  • Control of wild birds and rodents and their exclusion from the poultry houses is extremely important, especially in regards to salmonella control.
  • Disinfectant foot baths should be maintained daily at the entrance to each house.
  • Limit traffic within each house. One caretaker per house is ideal. Provide each employee with clean overalls, boots and hair covering.
  • Completely wash down and disinfect houses between flocks and allow substantial downtime.
  • Gather eggs at least four times per day and disinfect within 30 minutes of each gathering.
  • Chlorinate open drinker systems with three (3) ppm chlorine and closed (nipple) drinkers with one (1) ppm chlorine.
  • Feed ingredients of animal protein origin should be used in very limited quantities. It is better to use only plant sources of protein for breeder rations, if possible.
  • Culture samples of feces from nest belts, nest wires, work tables, floor eggs and feed should be collected at least once a month.

Biosecurity at the Hatchery

  • The access into the hatchery must be restricted. All visitors must wear overalls, boots and hair coverings.
  • The hatchery design should provide separation of incubation from hatching rooms. A separate wash room will allow for cleanup and sanitation of equipment and hatching trays after each hatch.
  • Egg carts and transport equipment must be cleaned and disinfected between deliveries. Carts should again be rolled through a disinfectant bath at the hatchery.

Hatchery Monitoring

  • Arrange for routine veterinary inspection and testing of facilities and procedures.
  • Perform microbial monitoring of meconium and hatch debris on each hatch day.
  • Swab samples from cleanup rooms, work tables, equipment and facilities should be collected at least monthly
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