Poultry Vet Talks About Diseases

3/16/2013 7:00 AM
By Charlene M. Shupp Espenshade Special Sections Editor

LANCASTER, Pa. — Donna Kelley, veterinarian at the Manheim Poultry Vet office for the Pennsylvania Animal Diagnostic Livestock System, talked about what diseases she has been seeing lately at her office.

Speaking at the monthly Penn State Poultry Health Seminar on Monday, she said she’s seen an increase in infectious bronchitis and several other diseases in the past couple of years.

Kelley said she’s had 34 cases in 2012, an increase of 23 from the year before. And just a few months into 2013, she has already had eight cases.

She said that poultry companies and producers have other laboratory options besides her office, so the numbers for the area could be even higher.

Infectious bronchitis causes a decrease in egg production and lower feed consumption, and birds do not reach their peak post-molting.

For meat birds, it causes respiratory problems and increased mortality. Kelley said she “sees more cases showing up, especially in the late fall and winter.”

She said the benefit of testing is that it can indicate what viral strain is causing the infection. Based on the results, poultry companies and farmers can adjust their vaccination programs if their current programs do not cover the strain.

The second virus popping up across multiple species of poultry and game birds is the REO virus. Traditionally, the signs have been runting and stunting, and this is still the case for game birds. However, chickens and turkeys have been affected with viral arthritis.

The other challenge of this virus is that it can work in conjunction with other diseases to cause problems.

Flocks with this infection show higher levels of mortality and uneven growth patterns in flocks. For specialty bird markets, these birds have been rejected by rabbis for kosher standards because of leg issues.

In addition to vaccination, insect control, water treatment and thorough cleanings between flocks can reduce infection rates. Last year, Kelley had 12 cases, spiking in the fall and winter.

Other diseases that have been showing up in commercial flocks include E. coli and coccidiosis. Backyard flocks’ leading diseases include mycoplasma and Mareck’s disease.

Muscovy duck, goose parvovirus is starting to show up again, and Kelley said it is quite infectious, causing 100 percent mortality in week-old birds.

For older ducks, there is higher than normal mortality, dependent on management. If undetected until harvest, it causes production losses, she said.

This is a tough virus because “it is very resistant to chemical and physical interventions,” Kelley said. To minimize infection risks, she advises producers to avoid mixing sources of eggs and the hatchery to practice good hygiene.

On the farm, it’s important to follow strict sanitation, have bug and rodent control, and use “all in, all out” management rotation, she said.

If the disease is found, she recommends a “prolonged down time for farms severely impacted by disease.”


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