Climate Change: Poultry farmers feel the heat

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File picture of a dead chick

Beverly Bizeki

With an El Nino season forecasted in the 2023/24 farming period ,experienced poultry farmers in Masvingo are feeling the heat with a high mortality of birds due to heat related stress.
Ngonidzashe Manyeka a poultry farmer in Masvingo recounts his losses as he has lost 50 chicks from a batch of 200 due to heat related stress and is not sure how to help the situation.
“I have lost 50 chicks on a batch of 200. The excessive heat experienced is a huge factor and the challenge is farmers do not have a know how on what to do with the chickens in this hot weather and also the required specifications for fowl runs.
“To save the chickens we just try to increase water stations and also pouring water on the birds, we cannot do anything honestly,” said Ngonidzashe.
Another farmer Melania Kandimiri said she was picking up dead birds from the fowl run every day and the routine was becoming normal.
“We are experiencing high mortality of birds due to the heatwave we are currently experiencing here in Masvingo, I have lost 11 birds in a few day and picking up dead birds is becoming a norm and we are now hopeless,” said Kandimiri.
Another local farmer, Ngonidzashe Mutume said he too was losing birds to heat stress and urged other farmers to try and have standard fowl runs, use stress pack and sprinkle water on the birds occasionally.
“Chickens are very sensitive birds and most farmers do not have standard fowl runs that allows proper ventilation, farmers must also ensure that they place as many water stations as possible as well as administering stress pack. It is also crucial that farmers sprinkle water on the birds occasionally to keep them cool,” said Mutume.
Masvingo Provincial Agritex Livestock Specialist Joseph Chipuri said heat stress was one of the silent killers in livestock production and saying it also reduces growth in broilers and layers.
“The 2023/24 season has been predicted to have normal to below normal rainfall and the forecast is characterized by high temperatures and in livestock production, the high temperatures leads to heat stress which is one of the silent killers in livestock production.
“In poultry heat reduces growth in broilers and layers and also contributes to series of physiological disturbances including systematic immune dysregulation, endocrine disorders, respiratory alka losses and electrolyte imbalance which affect health and production.
“Increase in temperature leads to mortality, reduced egg production and feed intake, we advise our farmers to take cognizance of some mitigatory measures which include ventilation, sprinkle water, provide shade as well as the use of right diets to reduce heat stress in poultry,” said Chipuri.
Another expert, Tarusenga Munyanyi said heat stress management is a requisite in saving the situation and that included making sure there was enough ventilation
“Heat stress management requires giving birds enough water, provide enough ventilation by ensuring the houses are opened up and make sure the birds have enough water and also add vitamins to the drinking water to maintain homeostasis and manage electrolyte loss in the body.
“Farmers also need to address the issue of overcrowding in fowl runs, smallholder farmers can put a bit of grass on top of the roof or rather pour water on top of the roof sheets to cool the roofing material as heat stress is difficult to mitigate. Farmers also need to ensure that when birds have reached slaughter weight they have to be sold.
“For layers, farmers need to ensure that they feed them early in the morning and late in the afternoon as they cannot feed during the day and will be using a lot of energy so there is a need for ensuring they have sufficient energy earlier before the hot hours. During the hotter part of the day birds do not need to be disturbed and need to be kept calm,” he said.

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