Dr. Prabhakar Shil, Dr. Himasri Das
PhD Scholar, College of Veterinary Science & A. H, Anand Agricultural University,Gujarat
PhD Scholar, College of Veterinary Science Khanapara, Guwahati-22, Assam Agricultural University
According to FAO (2002) survey, about 70% of the world’s rural population depends on livestock as a component of their income or livelihood. Poultry sector along with livestock provides a major contribution to India’s economy (Nath et al., 2012) and has a scope for quick and large profit. However, India stands 3rd in egg production and 5th in broiler production in the world with annual production of 88 billion eggs and 3.46 million tonnes broiler meat (DADF 2018). In India, native chicken varieties reared in backyard conditions contribute about 11 percent of total egg production (Kumaresan et al. 2008). Eggs are cheap and easily available source of protein, vitamin A, vitamin B12, riboflavin, iron and zinc (Drewnowski 2010) and also have sufficient amount of folate, selenium, vitamin D and vitamin K (Applegate 2000). Similarly, poultry meat is an important source of protein, vitamins and minerals such as iron, selenium, zinc, vitamins as well as rich source of omega-3 fatty acids. Backyard chickens are a good source of minerals and vitamins because of their varied diet. Indigenous or desi chicken plays very significant role for protein requirement in developing countries including India (Mapiye et al. 2008). Backyard poultry farming improves the socioeconomic and nutritional status of rural people by providing cheap source of protein (eggs and meat), eradicating malnutrition and generating self-employment (Chakrabarti et al. 2014)
As we all know in rural India, backyard poultry farming is an age old profession generally managed by women, children and old aged persons of the house. It acts as a powerful source of subsidiary income for landless and poor farmers. Backyard poultry is farming does not require any expensive inputs. Under this system of farming, birds are housed at night but allowed free-range during the day. They are usually fed a handful of grains in the morning and evening to supplement the scavenging and majorly thrive on waste materials like home kitchen waste, vegetable waste, green grass, insects etc. The flock contains usually the birds of same species but may be of mixed sex and age groups.
Contributing factors for parasitic infestation
Parasitic infestation is very common in chickens in the backyard type poultry flocks. However, presence of a few parasites do not usually cause any concern but increase in the numbers can have a devastating effect on growth, egg production and over-all health. The concentration of parasitic eggs in the chicken’s environment determines the severity of the infection. The chickens pick up the parasite eggs directly by ingesting contaminated feed, water and litter which can carry the eggs (Butcher and Miles, 2018). In backyard systems the birds are in permanent contact with soil, a range of intermediate hosts and wild birds. Due to scavenging nature birds come contact with abundance of intermediate hosts like beetles, ants and houseflies which are commonly seen on poultry litter, droppings, feeds etc. and are responsible for transmission of various helminth parasites among the flock (Ananda et.al., 2014). Therefore, it is difficult to avoid parasitic disease in such systems. Besides, the village poultry birds are mostly neglected and reared only a little or no extra feed supplement that makes them malnourished. The keeping condition is also very unhygienic and often crowded in a small place with little or no ventilation. All these factors either alone or in combination have important role in the high prevalence of both ecto as well as endo parasitic diseases in backyard poultry.
The common internal parasitic infections occurring in poultry include helminth infection and coccidiosis with mixed infection (Poulsen et al., 2000). Most common internal parasites include Eimeria spp., Ascaridia galli, Hetarakis gallinarum, Syngamus trachea, Capillaria spp, Raillietina spp., Trichostrongylus tenuis, Choanotaenia infundibulum and Strongyloides avium. Out of which the prevalence of disease caused by Eimeria spp. in backyard poultry is higher followed by helminthic infections. A. galli is the most common gastro intestinal helminth and it was recorded in free-range (backyard poultry) as well as intensive systems (broiler and layer farms) (Kumar et al., 2013).
The humid tropical climatic conditions of India largely favour faster propagation and development of larval stages of helminth parasites (Matta and Ahluwalia 1981; Malhotra 1983; Kulkarni et al. 2001). The helminthic infections in backyard chickens adversely affect the successful poultry farming. The nematodes viz., Ascaridia galli and Heterakis gallinarum are more frequently encountered parasites and cause heavy economic loss to the poultry industry due to decreased feed conversion ratio, weight loss, lowered egg production and mortality in young birds. Both exotic and desi birds are equally susceptible even after adopting strict management practices. (Ananda et.al., 2014).
Endoparasitism is as an important factor associated with poor production of backyard chickens, since parasites compete with the birds for nutrients; some suck blood causing anaemia, while others cause anorexia and even death. All species of avian Eimeria produce weight loss, decreased feed conversion ratios, loss of skin pigment, and decreased egg production. Due to high reproductive ability of these intracellular parasites all poultry production units, large or small is more or less affected by coccidiosis. (Ruff, 1999).
Similarly, ectoparasites also have adverse effects on backyard poultry farming system. Common ectoparasites include lice Menacanthus stramineus, Menopon gallinae , Lipeurus caponis, Cuclotogaster heterographus, Goniodes gigas , and Goniocotes gallinae , two species of mites namely Dermanyssus gallinae , Knemidocoptes mutans and one species of fly, Simulium sp. Among these, M. stramineus is the most common (Shanta et al., 2006 ) Poultry lice bite the birds, eat off host tissues, secretions of quill feathers, etc. Their biting is usually irritating and painful that makes the bird restless resulting decrease in feed intake (Islam et al. 1999, Soulsby, 1982). The infested birds become emaciated with rough plumages and the skin palp having plenty of dandruffs. Petechial haemorrhages on the skin of birds are seen in severe infestation with lice. Small ulcerative lesions are common in Dermanyssus gallinae infestation in which the engorged, red parasites stacked tightly similarly (Shanta et al., 2006). Adverse effects include emaciation, atrophy of thigh muscle and breast muscles, deformity of the legs are pronounced downwards to the joint of the toes. Knemidokoptes mutans is a common burrowing mite of poultry and cause scaly leg and sometimes leading to lameness and arthritis (Ikpeze et al. 2008). Similarly, Laminosioptes cysticola, the fowl cyst mite infests the subcutaneous tissues of poultry and form nodules reducing the value of bird (Amure and Stuart 1977).
Prevention is always better than cure. In general, breaking the life cycle of parasite can greatly reduce the infection and subsequent spread too. It can be done by preventing the bird from coming in contact with the intermediate or transport host, or by reducing contact with the source of contamination such as faeces, water and litter. Good management practice, proper housing and optimum nutrition have added advantages. Cleaning of poultry house and floor on regular basis keeps worm burden low in flocks. Disinfectants have some degree of activity against worm eggs. Dehydrating agents act as desiccant in poultry houses. Exposure to sunlight or burning the faecal matter is very effective in reducing infective burdens on the ground and will help to reduce the build-up of worm eggs in the vicinity (Thienpont et al., 2003). Different aged birds should not be raised in close proximity because older birds serve as a reservoir for infection of young birds. Similarly, wild birds should be kept away from flock as they could be infected with parasites and shed parasite eggs through their droppings.
Inspection of birds monthly for external parasites is very important. It is better to inspect birds while roosting as it is easy to catch them and cause less distress to birds and examining around the vent and under the wings is useful to detect the body lice and mites, similarly head and neck for head lice. Also examining the roosts and nesting boxes is useful to see the presence of mites and feathers for evidence of nits. If one bird has lice or mites, chances are they all do. Unfortunately, once a flock is infested the only way to eliminate a parasite problem is with pesticides.
Mainstream measures include anticoccidials, anthelmintics, and insecticides which are highly effective and inexpensive in decreasing parasite levels in heavily infected birds. Specific worm infections require specific medications. Piperazine is the only FDA approved treatment for internal parasites in meat and egg producing birds. Likewise, Pyrethroid sprays appear to be the best option for treatment of external parasites in poultry. Chickens need a proper diet especially an adequate supply of vitamins A and the B complex. Deficiency in these has been shown to increase the susceptibility to parasitism(Ruff, 1999).
Prophylactic medication with anticoccidial drugs in the feed remains the major way of preventing coccidiosis (McDougald and Reid, 1997). Synthetic drugs such as Amprolium, Nicarbazin, Diclazuril, and Toltrazuril are generally used to control coccidiosis disease in poultry (Shivaramaiah et al. 2014). Vaccines against coccidiosis include Coccivac type B and D (MSD) and Livacox (Hester) which are currently available in Indian market can be given as spray or along with drinking water. Thorough biosecurity coupled with the use of prophylactics are first strategies deployed for control of coccidiosis.
The biggest problem associated with this control method is the development of resistance by the coccidian to all medications available for use. Among the alternative measures explored is the use of natural products like probiotics, Dalloul et al. (2005) reported use of Lactobacillus-based probiotics, Primalac which reduces the oocyst shedding and increase T and B cell specific cytokines against E. avervulina infection. Similarly Lee et al. (2007) confirmed the effectiveness of Pediococcus-based probiotics in improving performance against E. acervulina and E. tenella infection.
There Backyard poultry farming in India can bridge the huge gap between the supply and demand of the poultry egg and meat. Backyard poultry farming will be more profitable if farmers adopt scientific poultry farming techniques like proper health care, proper and balanced feed supply, timely vaccination and better housing management to combat parasitic diseases. Chickens need a proper diet, especially an adequate supply of vitamins A and the B complex to fight against worm infestation. Use of prebiotics to decrease the susceptibility towards coccidiosis can be incorporated as an alternative approach. Along with this strict biosecurity measures if possible should be implemented. Government, Veterinarians, NGOs should provide technical assistance to farmers regarding management of parasitic diseases. Improved poultry varieties developed by CARI like Devendra, Shyama, Upkari, Hitkari etc. are expected to be more resistant to parasitic infestation and better performing in nature.
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