June Vet’s Diary with Dr Kenny Stokes-Nutting BVetMed MRCVS
On the ground, we are monitoring chick quality closely at the moment and despite the wet conditions the laying hens were experiencing during their peak lay, broadly speaking this has not developed into poor quality chicks as expected. The chicks are actually good to very good.
As we know, there are huge variances in day and night temperatures at the moment, which is extremely challenging in non-insulated rearing sheds because the chicks spend more time thermoregulating and therefore not putting 100% into growing and strengthening their immune system. The birds then are more susceptible to bacterial challenges, and we can start to see unevenness in the bird size and gut inflammation in 7 – 10day old chicks. This can be managed by proactive diagnostics such as post-mortems and the use of in-water products such as acids or essential oils.
Another aspect to consider is the use of open water drinkers for chicks. Often, I will visit a site and see wet bedding around them, some dirty water, and multiple bacteria. It’s no surprise that in these conditions the chicks are likely to develop enteritis and then require antibiotics.
Many people often use open water drinkers for the 1% of chicks that are weak as they wouldn’t be able to use nipples which provide clear water. In fact, though, by doing this we seem to be inadvertently compromising 99% of the birds with bacteria and maybe causing more harm than good. It’s just something to be aware of. If we are using them, it’s important to monitor them.
More widely, there has been a rapid rise of bird flu in Southern France. Their second largest duck area has increased significantly in the last three weeks. It’s concerning that that level of bird flu is not only active but also rising rapidly at these temperatures when really it should be declining at this time of year.
While this has not affected the mid-west of France where most game bird breeding takes place at the moment, and while we are getting to the end of our laying season now, this does give us an important warning not to be idle. There is nothing to say that this time next year such a rapid rise in bird flu couldn’t happen in mid-west France and have severe ramifications on us again. There are also a lot of wild birds that are still affected both in England and France which suggests that bird flu is probably going to continue to show over the summer period and therefore over the winter.
This means it’s important to know your supply chain and fully understand where your eggs are coming from – it may be that the various places you are getting your eggs from in the UK are all sourcing from the same place. Really, you shouldn’t be putting 100% of your sourcing in one direction.
Originally written for June’s monthly feature of Countryman’s Weekly – ‘The Vet Diaries’