Over the years, local poultry farmers across the country have lost many of their chickens to a deadly disease which attacks them during the harmattan.
Attempts to solve the problem have been hampered by various factors including lack of awareness and poor access to the right vaccine for the prevention of the disease.
Our reporters sought the advice of experts on how best to tackle the problem. Mr. Umar A. Umar is a researcher with the Poultry Research Programme at the National Agricultural Production Research Institute (NAPRI), Shika in Zaria, Kaduna State.
He spoke on a disease peculiar to local chickens during harmattan and enumerated the best ways to prevent the disease and other good management practices.
He said Newcastle disease is the disease that mostly affects local chickens during the harmattan.
“The viral disease is characterised by chickens turning their necks as if they are possessed,” Mr. Umar explained.
The researcher said “the problem we face with local chickens is that there is no adequate diagnosis,” adding that the only solution was to prevent the disease through vaccination because it had no cure.
“So, you can vaccinate them before the harmattan or supplement them with immune boosters like multivitamins, and also give them antibiotics like oxytetracycline. You should also increase their feed ration to give them energy so as to combat the effect of the weather,” Mr. Umar said.
He explained that vaccination required expertise; as such it should be done by an expert or trained personnel.
“We have the injectable one and non-injectable one which is normally mixed with non-chlorinated water. Each vaccine has its own recommendation on how to administer it to the chickens. You can give them the vaccine at the end of October and give them again two months after,” the researcher said.
He further stated that vaccines could be given as early as two weeks after hatching. Then it should be reissued at three months intervals to further boost their immunity.
Umar added that there are local practices like feeding them the leaves of certain plants such as ‘Yalon kaji’ or ‘Gunar shanu’ which looked like garden egg whereby the leaves are soaked in water and the solution given to them.
He noted that poultry farmers need to adopt good management practices such as cleaning the poultry house every day to avoid contamination.
A local chicken farmer, Mr. Abba Emmanuel, who agreed with Mr. Umar, told our reporter that from years of experience, apart from the conventional preventive measure of vaccination, he also applied non-conventional method by adding pepper to the drinking water for the chickens.
He advised local chicken farmers to protect the birds against cold during the harmattan so as to avoid diseases and complications that could lead to their loss.