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For poultry and even humans, vaccination has shown to be a lifesaver over time. Before the invention of vaccines that made poultry resistant to diseases, drug medications were the only means of treating illnesses. The Covid-19 pandemic provides a prime illustration of the value of vaccines in preventing deaths globally. In our August webinar, Dr. Abdullah Ige, Afrimash Livestock Category Manager and Veterinarian, discussed the responsibilities of vaccination in poultry farms and how farmers and their Vets may be more profitable by adhering to the best vaccination procedures.

Vaccination & Poultry Farming

Vaccination is administering a dead or weakened pathogen to healthy chicks in a regulated manner. After this process, the immune system of the chicks would respond to the introduced pathogens by activating an army of cells designed to attack and destroy the invaders. Doing this equips the chicks‘ bodies to fight against such diseases and not become sick when exposed to the pathogens.

Vaccination simply means putting pathogens in an animal’s body to incite protection against a particular disease. You could want to get your birds vaccinated against Newcastle Disease, for instance. The vaccine vials would contain Newcastle Disease-causing viruses (though weak or dead). Once you put these dead or weakened pathogens in the bird, its immune system/protection mechanism will recognize the Newcastle Disease pathogens. Due to the body’s defense against Newcastle Disease, exposure to this new pathogen would not be able to affect the chick. Therefore, anytime the bird is infected with the Newcastle Disease, it is immune to that disease and would not be infected by it.

Reasons For Vaccination

Vaccination plays a vital role in the health management of the poultry flock. Through vaccination, you could prevent numerous diseases such as:

  • Egg drop syndrome 76 (EDS 76)Fowl cholera
  • Fowl pox
  • Infectious bronchitis
  • Infectious bursal disease
  • Infectious coryza
  • Infectious laryngotracheitis
  • Marek’s disease
  • Newcastle disease.

The diseases veterinary doctors vaccinate against in poultry are more than the above list. These listed diseases occur more in our immediate environments and Nigeria at large. We, therefore, have to vaccinate against diseases that are prevalent in our environment.

Pre-Requisite For Poultry Vaccination

Vaccination requires a lot of energy from the chicks, which can be stressful and painful. Therefore, it is advisable to be humane and strategic anytime we want to initiate the vaccination process. It is also advisable to keep the number of vaccinations to a minimum, especially during the first weeks of life, as the goal is to stimulate the chicks to grow as much as possible. Any vaccination during the rearing period should be well thought out.

One of the things to note before vaccination is to check that the chicks are fit and healthy and to also check their recovery progress from the previous vaccination. A well-balanced design of your vaccination program is also a necessity. It is very much advisable to consult your veterinarian to help develop your vaccination program. Having no idea what to do as a farmer before your chicks’ vaccination could worsen the situation. As earlier stated, vaccination involves putting dead or weakened pathogens in an animal’s body. If an animal is sick or weak, you should not vaccinate them.

For instance, you bought chicks from a distant location. Vaccinating these chicks without giving them proper time to rest would make the vaccine ineffective. The reason is that the chicks were already weak on arrival on the farm. First, on arrival, allow them to relax and give them multivitamins. After these, you can now administer vaccines. If you give chicks vaccine when stressed or diseased, they would come down with infections and may even die.
It is also crucial to note that there are certain times to vaccinate. There are certain ages best for vaccination. There will be problems if farmers do not vaccinate at the appropriate time.

Types and Forms of Poultry Vaccine

Poultry Vaccination

Before considering vaccinating chicks, remember that different vaccines have peculiar ages, doses, routes of administration, and the appropriate environmental conditions required before vaccination. For this reason, employ your vet’s advice before proceeding with your poultry vaccination. Handling vaccines is also a delicate matter because spillovers can trigger the outbreak of diseases on farms.

For vaccinations to be as effective as possible, follow the proper handling procedures. Each vaccine’s ideal storage temperature varies depending on its type, formulation, and manufacturer.

Some types and forms of vaccines are Live attenuated and Inactivated vaccines.

Some vaccines are living, while some are dead or inactivated. The living vaccines mean that the pathogens in these vaccines are still alive, although weak. We have the inactivated vaccines. What this means is that the pathogens in the vaccines are already dead.

The Routes of vaccine administration include:

  • Drinking water.
  • Spray/nebulization (Chicks in the housed environment).
  • Eye drop.
  • Transfixion and scarification (cutaneous route in the wing web or foot).
  • Injection (intramuscular or subcutaneous).
  • In-ovo administration

Reasons Why Farmers Need Vets For Poultry Vaccination

poultry diagnostics chicken

If vets are not involved, there is a higher chance of poultry flocks experiencing vaccine failures or vaccine breakage. Vaccine failure means the chicks do not respond appropriately to the administered vaccine. The source of vaccines is also essential to prevent ineffective vaccines. It is advisable to buy vaccines from reputable sources.

Vets know the appropriate strains of a particular vaccine to buy that can protect against specific diseases in poultry flocks. They have the knowledge about proper handling and how to best administer (route) for appropriate action. Each chick has its vaccination regimen. There are different vaccine layers, broilers, breeders, and the rest. Therefore, the right information is needed. While there is information online, we strongly advise seeking the professional insight of a veterinary doctor.

Other Methods for Disease Prevention

1. Parasite Control

Not every farmer is aware that parasite is one of the causes of diseases. We have parasites like flies, lice, and mites flying, including worms. If we don’t control these parasites before giving vaccines, the chicks will keep getting infected with diseases.
Parasites may be internal or external. Internal parasites include worms, protozoans, flies, etc. External parasites, on the other hand, include lice, ticks, mites, etc. Practicing a free-range poultry farming system exposes the chicks to parasites and defeats the purpose of protecting the chicks from these parasites.
One of the ways to check for parasites is to inspect the chicks for lice flying around or attached to the body. Also, check their feces for worms. If worms are visible, it is called worm infestation.

How do you protect chicks from parasites? Spraying [ensure thorough checking of application materials before use]; Carrying out anti-parasite programs in conjunction with your vet; Administering Anti-parasitic drugs to the chicks; and Keeping the environment parasite-proof. [e.g. the use of covers or nets]. By doing these, you have reduced the chances of your chicks having diseases and would get you more profits from your farm.

2. Identifying and Treating Sick Chicks

Always observe your chicks for any sign of ill-health or problems within the flock such as feather pecking. Remove sick chicks from the main flock and obtain a diagnosis from a qualified vet doctor. Sick chicks usually look different from healthy chicks, therefore, it is easy to identify. You can give the correct treatment once you identify the disease. Keep unhealthy chicks quarantined from the flock until completely recovered. If medication is given, it is important to adhere to any withholding periods. 

3. Separating Multi-age Flocks

This is a tricky one but also very important in disease prevention apart from vaccination. Older chicks due to their age have already been exposed to some diseases while growing up. They harbor many diseases despite their immunity against them. Younger chicks due to their age have fewer diseases in them. If older chicks were put together with younger chicks, it is possible that the older chicks would transfer diseases to the younger chicks because the same feeders and drinkers would be used by them and these are the means through which diseases spread. It is therefore always advisable to separate the older ones from the younger ones. They should not be allowed to interact with one another. Farmers running small-scale farms can still do this separation method. 

Another thing you can do is the all-in all-out system where you buy a particular specie of chicks at once, rear them at once and sell them at once. This would allow you to clean the pens at once for another set of chicks. This will prevent disease spread among chicks. This is very important to note. If you however have a farm where you grow both younger and older chicks, it is advisable to handle the younger chicks first before the older chicks. This is because if you handle the older chicks before the younger chicks, the chances of the younger chicks picking up diseases from the older chicks are very high.

4. Practicing Routine Biosecurity Procedures

Biosecurity involves physically separating your farm from other forces that can bring diseases to your farm. For example, a struggling vet that is looking to make ends meet is servicing three farms at the same time. Coming from a farm with chicks infected with Cholera to your own farm with zero diseases, using the same equipment, lab coat, and shoes, without proper sanitization, on your own farm would bring in Cholera to your farm. That is why biosecurity is very essential.

Some farms have policies that would never allow people into their farms without proper sanitation. You would be required to wear everything provided by them. Don’t let anyone enter your farm unless there are security precautions in place to protect your chicks. It’s extremely likely that visitors to your farm will bring several diseases with them If you put these measures in place, there would be no need to spend extra resources on control measures after disease infestation. Protect your chicks from anything and anyone that would cause loss to you.

Poultry vaccination is essential if farmers want to protect their flocks from diseases that could kill them or make them sick. If you own a poultry farm, let a qualified vet guide you on the best way to vaccinate your birds.

Do you have any questions about this topic or need to talk to a vet? Please feel free to leave your comments below, and don’t forget to click the share button.

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