BROILER PRODUCTION MANAGEMENT
The broiler management includes each and every factor singularly or in combination that affects the growth of broilers. Included are the brooding temperatures, ventilation, provision of water and feed, stocking density, disease prevention, light provision, weather and many others. Weather conditions in some part of Nigeria are characterised by high temperatures. In the summer months the diurnal weather can be highly variable from dry, hot to wet, cold, windy or cold and humid.
These variable and changing weather conditions create conducive environments for bird dis-comfort, the proliferation of harmful microorganisms and irritating insects. Whenever ambient temperatures are high, birds avoid feeding to prevent overheating and subsequently hyperthermia a potentially fatal condition. Feed consumption, digestion and assimilation naturally raises the body temperatures of the birds. During times of heat stress birds tend to drink more water as part of thermoregulation mechanisms. Higher water consumption leads to wet litter and associated problems such as chronic respiratory disease, foot pad dermatitis, hock burn, breast blisters and eventually blindness. Higher water intake disturbs digestion as the ingested feed is moved through the digestive tract at a faster rate resulting in some undigested feed being passed out.
Poor digestion will result in poor weights and higher feed conversion ratios making the whole operation less economically viable. High ambient temperatures also raises the temperature of the water in the drinkers and the birds will not drink hot or warm water. Logically, birds without feed or water will not grow to their full potential.
The high summer temperatures have also been known to drop just before, during and after a storm making summer broiler production truly unpredictable and eventful. Rains increase the humidity in the air. High humidity reduces the ability of air exchange to dry out the wet litter. Wet litter can result in ammonia build-up which adversely affects the respiratory tracts of the birds. The protozoa that cause coccidiosis a digestive condition, thrive in moist litter.
Generally, microbes flourish in moist conditions resulting in a lot of diseases being diagnosed in summer. Rains also bring mosquitoes, which cause irritating bites and leave unsightly sores. Mosquitoes also transmit diseases like fowl pox and Plasmodium gallinaceum (chicken malaria).
Broiler managers have to be even more versatile and proactive in the summer months compared to the winter season where temperature and ventilation are the only weak links. Some of the strategies that they can adopt during summer are explored in this article.
To manage heat stress, the stocking density has to be managed carefully. In the standard open broiler houses experts recommend at most 10 birds per square metre to reduce the heat load. Reduced stocking density reduces the amount of droppings and this makes it easier for the airflow to eliminate wet litter.
Feeding during the cooler hours of the day also helps the birds eat more feed when they would otherwise struggle with taking in feed in the hot months.
Use of asbestos roofing material or the painting of metal sheets with white insulation paint reflects some of the sun’s rays.
The farmer has to provide clean, cool and fresh water at all times to assist the birds cool down. A large broiler producer in the hot region used to provide ice in the water.
Spraying water inside broiler houses with mist helps with evaporative cooling.
During rain or high winds, it is advisable to raise windward side curtains to avoid chilling/stressing the birds. When birds are cold they will stop feeding and huddle for warmth. Cold birds will involuntarily shiver to generate heat and this wasted energy should have been used for growth. It might even be necessary to provide a supplementary heat source to counter the effects of chilling. (USE OUR NEW TECHNOLOGY OF CHACOOL BROODER FOR EASY BROODING)
Microbes proliferate in the warm and humid summer season thus diseases are many. Biosecurity measures have to be tightened up to prevent economic losses in poor growth and mortality. These include all-in all-out, vaccinations, limiting entry, managing rodents and insects, and use of footbaths and hand wash.
During times of stress a simple counter measure the farmers can employ is to provide a vitamin/mineral in the drinking water to help the birds manage stress and also to boost the immune system.
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