Poultry Management for the Forthcoming Northeast Monsoon and Winter Season

Dr. R. Selvakkumar

Ph.D., Professor and Head Department of Livestock Production Management

Veterinary College and research Institute

Theni-625 534

Poultry industry has made rapid progress in resolving hot weather situations, but struggling in resolving the issues during cold weather. This may be due to the high cost involved in fuel, litter and feeding to warm the poultry house and birds during winter and rainy season. Further, when compared to summer, the damp surrounding prevailed during monsoon making an ideal platform for the growth and spread of pathogenic organisms. Probability for the contamination of water and feed during winter is higher and this is also a risky factor during winter. Hence, winter is the time for making some changes in the management of poultry layers and broilers to uphold its persistence in production.     

Its October and north west monsoon have started followed by winter chills. For poultry farmers, monsoon management of poultry is all about curtain management to prevent rainy water spillage inside the poultry house, Brooding management to give warmth to the chicks, and Litter management to keep the litter dry. Broadly the monsoon and winter management of poultry is classified in to the following heading

·         Feeding management

·         Water management

·         Litter management

·         Brooding management

·         Housing and Ventilation management

Feeding management

The mercury level drops, poultry birds need extra calories to maintain their body temperature and production. Hence, birds consume more feed to compensate for heat loss from the body which leads to poor FCR. The energy providing ingredients in the extra feed consumed has been utilized to produce heat but the extra proteins component of the feed is voided as waste in the faecal matter. So, ration should be formulated in such a way to provide extra energy and not protein. This can be achieved by increasing the energy content by including energy rich ingredients like oil, fat, etc. The nutrients like proteins, minerals and vitamins should not be altered during winter. Because, addition of such nutrients will increase the feed cost.  

Providing additional feeders may also be helpful to improve the feed intake of the poultry birds during winter.

Feed should be stored in a dry place to avoid contact with moisture. Feed stored in improper storage conditions during the rainy and winter season are more prone to mycotoxin contamination. The stored feed in the house should be placed on the platform above the ground to prevent the feed from regaining moisture from the floor. Waterproof conditions of the feed preparation unit, feeding equipment and feeders inside the shed should be ensured. As a prophylactic measure, toxin binders may be added with the feed to get rid of mycotoxin problems.

Holes and other entry points of rodents should be carefully sealed to prevent its entry.

Water management

Before the arrival of monsoon, the entire watering delivery system should be thoroughly checked for any default. Water resources like bore wells and open wells should be maintained in such a way to avoid contamination with flooded water during rain. The overhead tank of the farm should be tightly closed. Entire water delivery system should be thoroughly cleaned and checked for any leakage. Because, a leaky water line will further moisten the litter materials.

Due to the cold weathers, birds are consuming less water than normal. But water is an essential component for the physiological process of the body. The fresh and continuous supply of warm water may encourage consumption in birds during winter. Water should be properly sanitised during the winter season to avoid contamination.

Care should be taken while administering vaccines and other supplements through drinking water. Withheld water for some time may increase the thrust and this will be helpful to encourage the birds to fully drink the medicated drinking water.

 Brooding management

At a young age, chickens are unable to maintain body temperature and they are vulnerable to cold climates when ambient temperature drops below 20 degrees Celsius.  Failure to provide optimal warmth may result in high mortality, high disease incidence and drop in production.

Before the entry of chicks into the brooding area, the floor should be dry and covered with warm and dry bedding materials like saw dust, shredded papers, grain husks etc to save the chicks from the floor chillness.

Uninterrupted power supply is doubtful during the rainy season. so, installation of traditional Bukhari’s will be helpful to overcome such a situation.

 Housing and Ventilation management

Ventilation is essential throughout the year irrespective of the climatic factor.  Gunny bags should be hung at the sides to prevent the direct entry of cold air.  But at the same time, improper ventilation may lead to accumulation of expired air by the birds and also the accumulation of ammonia released from the litter/ faecal materials into the house. To avoid such problems, the side screen structure may be applied in the night and removed during day time may be helpful to proper air circulation during winter season or leave 1–2 feet opening at the top of the side screen during the day time to expel the ammonia and other undesirable gases out. Sliding windows are most suitable for the above purpose.  Sufficient number of exhaust fans at an optimum place will be helpful to remove the impure air from the poultry house.

Litter management

Wet litter is the main problem during the rainy season. The manure gets wet by direct water entering onto manure either by fault watering lines   or splashing of rainwater into the poultry house of leaky roofs etc.  wet litter is ideal for the multiplication of flies, insects and growth of other pathogenic agents.   Use of larvicides can be useful to control the breeding of flies.

Coccidiosis is prevalent among the birds maintained in the deep litter with high moisture level. Further, the release of ammonia is high in the wet litter and thus will affect the birds by suppressing the immune system and reducing the  production.  

If a handful of litter sticks together when it is squeezed tightly and then loosened, the indication is that deep litter material is too wet. Periodic checking of condition of the deep litter, replacing of wet or caked deep litter with dry litter material and arresting any leakage in the watering line are essential to overcome the deep litter issued during winter and rainy season.

Sprinkle fertilizer grade superphosphate before racking the litter may be helpful to prevent ammonia release from the wet litter.

 Others Management

Repairing of entire housing including roofs for any leakage, cleaning the drainage ditch, inspection and rectification of faulty electric lines are basic but essential steps taken prior to the arrival of monsoon.

            Layer birds are stimulated to lay eggs by day length. Long days/ increasing daylight encourage egg production. During the winter season, the day length is shortened and this will affect the production performance of the layer. Hence, lengthening of the photoperiod by providing fluorescent light is a must to solve this problem.

Moist surrounding of poultry houses during monsoon season favour the growth of pathogenic organisms and the diseases like IBD, Pox, Fowl cholera, E.coli and salmonella are common during this season. A proper vaccination schedule, hygienic feed and water management, litter management and keeping the farm clean and warm are useful to curtain the disease outbreaks.

Storage of feed in a dry place for a shorter period and maintaining the feeding equipment clean can help to save the birds from toxic nuisances.

Extra care during brooding of chicks with providing uninterrupted warmth are essential to avoid chick mortality due to chillness.    

By following the above management techniques during winter and monsoon season,  the adverse effect on poultry birds can be overcome.