Always ensure that a qualified veterinarian prescribes all medication for your bird or flock.
Most farmers in modern poultry are still using antimicrobials to control or alleviate chicken suffering and improve performance. While some farmers are doing the right thing, raising flocks with minimal use of antimicrobials, others are abusing the drugs. As we ponder on future of antibiotic free production, we must appreciate the current challenges farmers are experiencing during water medication. There are different medicines that farmers buy from Agrovet shops and administer whenever they suspect infection or drop in production in their flocks of broilers, layers or kienyeji chickens. Some of these products applied through drinking water are antibiotics, vitamins, vaccines, de-wormers and anti-coccidia. Some farmers even apply disinfectants in drinking water or even acidifiers to reduce water contamination prior to consumption. Whatever the situation in your farm, ensure that a qualified veterinarian prescribes all medication for your bird or flock. Here are some factors that may cause medication failures through drinking water application.
1. Correct dose per bird or per flock
Always administer the correct dose to birds or to a flock of birds. It is common to see medicines prescribed at milligrams/kg body weight or grams/1,000 birds or grams/1,000 litres of water. These calculations must be done by a qualified vet and administered accurately. If the correct dose is not given as per manufacturers’ prescription, it is common to underdose medicine with no positive improvement to the sick bird or flock.
2. Environmental effect on water consumption
During hot weather, birds tend to consume more water than normal. Thus if this is allowed during medication, birds will most likely overdose any medication with far reaching consequences. It is therefore important to rationalise water intake during medication. Birds also prefer cold water, if you are providing warm water, thirst the birds for one to two hours before introducing medicated water. This will encourage water intake.
3. Feed intake effect on water consumption
Birds will drink two times the amount of feed consumed; in other words if feed intake is low, the birds are likely to drink less water than expected. In such situation, a change to pelleted feed may stimulate more water intake during medication period.
4. Correct water consumption records
One must have a rough estimate of water consumption rate the previous day before medication. As birds age, water consumption goes up and so it is important to correctly predict the intake rate to avoid under dosing of medicated water to a flock. Always keep water consumption records. Given that sick birds will not take as much water as before, you may need to increase concentration of drugs in the initial loading dose to counter poor water intake.
5. Palatability of medicines
Some drugs are quite distasteful or unpleasant to birds. Some de-wormers like Levamisole or tetracyclines in water may not be taken easily by birds. In such scenarios, there may be a need to spread the dose over a period or administer intermittently, that is two days on two days off.
6. Use of inappropriate equipment
It is important that all the birds get access to drinkers during medication, so ensure you have enough drinkers, well-spaced in the units and are at the right level. The lip of the drinkers should be at the level of the back of the smallest bird in the population. If you are using nipple drinking system, ensure that the pressures are right, and the pipes are not blocked.
7. Water quality
Water used for medication must be cool, fresh, free from chemicals, disinfectants and biological contaminants. When dosing vaccines, distilled water is most ideal, if this is not possible such water can be boiled a day before medication.
8. Correct mixing
Note that not all medications can be mixed, but where drugs are compatible, ensure each concentration in the water is not diluted. Some farmers are fond of mixing multivitamins and antibiotics, but this can lead to chemical interactions with no beneficial effect. Always follow veterinary instructions.
(The writer is the head vet at Kenchic, [email protected])