bird; poultry; avian; surveillance; vaccines

Poultry production: Vaccines – Newcastle disease

There has been an outbreak of Newcastle disease (ND) in South Africa’s Limpopo Province and a consequent scare in the poultry industry. Up to date vaccination is always important and now is a good time for poultry farmers to review their vaccination programmes and check on the right way to handle vaccines.

Exposure to sunlight can inactivate the vaccine so keep the storage pack shaded. Store vaccines in the fridge or cold room, not in the freezer. Keep the cold chain going when you transport the vaccines by storing them in a cooler box with ice packs. The vaccine must stay in a cold environment from the time it leaves the co-op or Vet store where the farmer buys it until the time it is used. This is critical.


Wash the drinkers and take away all water from your birds for two hours before you vaccinate. This ensures that they all drink once the vaccine is in the water.

If you have automatic drinkers and they can be switched off, use a plastic watering can to pour the vaccine into the ‘bell’.

Do not use disinfectants of any type, including chlorine, in the water containers.

If you keep village chickens that free roam you must gather them into a confined space and withhold water for two hours. There is no getting around this. ND is responsible for most poultry mortalities in the sub-region and vaccination is the only form of prevention against this disease.

ND is generally more serious and more of a risk in the dry season, so plan your vaccination accordingly.


There are live and killed vaccines for ND, but the killed vaccines are more difficult to administer because they require individual handling of birds which is stressful for the chickens and time consuming for the vaccinator. The live vaccine is not robust and should be carefully handled, with the cold store in operation right up to the moment the vaccine is dispensed into the water.

The vaccine is administered through very clean drinking water in equally clean containers or by aerosol spray in enclosed buildings. The birds should be healthy and older than two weeks. Maternal antibodies will render the vaccine ineffective in chicks up to 10 days old.

The vaccine comes in vials of 1 000 doses, which is way more than the average small-scale farmer will use. Unfortunately, it cannot be stored since it is only effective for an hour, once it has been diluted.

For birds of 2 weeks to 8 weeks use 15 litres of water in which to dilute the 1 000 doses; for birds of 8 weeks and upwards use 28 litres of water.

About 30 minutes before adding the vaccine, mix 2g of skim milk powder per litre into the water.

Take the seal and the stopper off the vial of vaccine and half fill the vial with clean cool water. Put the stopper back and shake the vaccine. Remove the stopper of the vaccine under the water and add to the water.

Fill the drinking containers with the vaccine water. Remember to make sure they are clean, but without any disinfectant (including soap) residue.
Put out enough drinking containers so that about 60% of the birds can drink at one time.

The maximum quantity of water should never be more than 40 litres. For fewer than 1 000 birds use more water and discard what is not consumed.


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