Thursday, September 16, 2010
coccidiosis control without antibiotics
The most common approach to coccidiosis control is using medicated feed. But it's not ideal in many ways, not least being resistance (where the parasite breeds to become less susceptible to the drug). Secondly, I know from any time I've started building a compost pile rich in chick starter that it fungates like crazy. I suspect that piles of spilt chick starter can really upset the balance of microorganisms in the compost, and probably in soil (which may partly explain why, when I threw a batch of spilt chick starter on the base of a choko vine by way of fertilizer, the plant died).
It's encouraging to see big farms in some areas of the globe experimenting with coccdiosis 'vaccination'. Unlike many vaccines (some of which spread disease*), the coccidiosis version is simply a spray-on dose of live coccidiosis oocysts. This limited exposure gradually encourages immunity, while the more easily controllable cocci bug in the vaccine ensures that if drugs do become necessary, the parasites won't be resistant.
But in reality this is what happens in nature when the mother hen mouths food for her chickens, and when they eat a little of her droppings to ingest her gut flora. Mother hens are pretty good (especially when given free range) at moving chicks to new ground and limiting their exposure.
Given that I can't currently use broody hens to raise my chicks, I'm keen on trying a home version of the vaccination idea. The general plan would be to expose chicks to parental droppings within the first few hours after hatch (as well as a little dose of probiotics, whether yakult or yoghurt or kefir in the water). Unfortunately I won't be able to gauge the 'dose' of coccidiosis oocysts, so this is all pretty ad hoc.
Anyway, these are just ideas at this stage... I've given probiotics and a little parental droppings to my current chicks, but haven't been game to remove the medicated starter.
When you've seen how quickly birds can become deathly ill without intervention, it's hard to just drop something that works... But the ideal would be home-raised chicks without antibiotics — it doesn't seem a tall ask, does it?
* See the DPI Qld website relating to tick fever vaccination for cattle. The site explains that vaccinating cattle for tick fever will likely introduce the disease to local ticks, which can then spread it to unvaccinated cattle. Nice way of ensuring addiction to vaccination!
Posted by Erica Bandanna at 12:57 PM