We’re starting to get back to normal, even after two seasons of uncertainty. In 2021, bird numbers have risen, and people are keen to get back to pre-Covid numbers of birds and shoot days. More than this, however, many people have had a chance to rethink what they do and start out in 2021 with new ideas to advance and improve their game site.

Water

Every year more sites use water sanitisers and acidification. Each reports back to us about improved health and growth and reduced disease. Appropriate water sanitisers help to reduce the contamination of water to minimise bacteria in both the water and pipes. Even water systems on a mains water supply need water sanitation as bacterial contamination can build up in the drinker lines and supply pipes. This reduces the changes such bacteria can have on a bird’s gut flora and the risk of disease-causing bacteria in the water. Water acidification has similar benefits, helping to control certain disease-causing agents, such as Hexamita, and control the gut flora. Whilst these factors do not entirely remove the risk of disease, they are a powerful part of the puzzle to minimise disease risk, allowing birds to grow and enabling them to be healthier when they encounter an infectious disease.

Chick Start

Talking to fellow PHS vets from across the country, chicks did not have a great start in 2021. No single reason for this was able to be identified, but it is a reminder of how important it is to buy chicks from a reliable source and to ensure that sheds are appropriately set up for their arrival.

Where infection has been present, medication has been necessary, but probiotics, water sanitisers, and electrolytes have also proven to be essential in supporting chick health and are important to use from day 1. Probiotics help generate a healthy gut flora, can be given at placement and after medication, and can now be given in the feed or as a top dressing using products such as PHS’ Agricure Probio Chick Gel. Water sanitisers help minimise the risk of more unwanted bacteria, whilst electrolytes support hydration which is essential during digestive disease.

Electrolytes

Electrolytes have also proven effective with older birds. Before and after handling, such as bitting and transport, during heat waves, and whenever birds look under the weather, electrolytes help to support health and hydration. Heat, stress, and many digestive diseases result in birds losing salts and often drinking less. Even during minor problems, by replacing these salts via electrolyte supplements, we can encourage birds to drink more, improve their hydration, and support their health, reducing the risk of severe disease.

PHS uses Agricure Hydrovit and Electrovits, which include sugars and vitamins B and C alongside electrolytes to further support health. In 2021, many clients have used these after transport and kept some on site to support their birds through stressful days, such as hot or wet weather, improving overall growth and health.

Reducing Mycoplasma by Reducing Stocking Density

There is no simple way to prevent Mycoplasma, although the “BVPA working group recommendations for Mycoplasma management in gamebirds” is one of the best places to start, and is available on the BVPA website:

http://www.bvpa.org.uk/pdfs/Recommendations%20for_Mycoplasma_management%20in%20gamebirds%20v2%20Mar%2019.pdf

One of these recommendations is to ensure an appropriate stocking density. During 2020, many game farms chose to place fewer birds per shed. This resulted in more room for each bird, which led to less stress, less bullying, and subsequently healthier birds with a stronger immune system.

Mycoplasma is a small bacteria which not only infects birds, but is also able to get into their cells. It grows slowly and spreads to other cells but is limited by the bird’s immune system until the bird is weakened. This can happen during times of stress and/or disease challenge and allows the Mycoplasma to cause significant clinical signs and disease and be spread to other birds. At this point, the Mycoplasma can cause significant disease, spreading to other birds and causes the obvious symptoms, such as bulgy eye.

By supporting a bird’s immune system, limiting stress, and promoting health we can reduce the rate of spread and risk of significant disease.

Reducing stocking density can also have an effect on diseases other than Mycoplasma, by reducing the risks, the spread, the symptoms, and the recovery time. On sites where high stocking densities have been reduced, we’ve seen a decrease in percentage mortality, reduced disease, and healthier birds.

Advised stocking densities are:

  • Shed – 5 birds per square foot (approximately 350 in a 8’x8’, 500 in a 10’x10’)
  • Shed plus run – 4 square foot per bird
  • Release pen – 1 hectare per 1,000 birds

Online Pre-Season Meetings

PHS runs pre-season game meetings every year to discuss new developments, products, and plans for the year ahead. We were unable to have physical meetings in 2021, so we organised a national online meeting so more people could attend from across the country.

We are hoping to do this again in 2022 so as many people as possible can join us as we look forward to what we hope will be another year of advancement and growth.

For further details, please contact your local Poultry Health Services branch - https://poultryhealthservices.com

Poultry Health Services
Game Season 2021: Back on track