Farmers’ Diaries: Mhlobo Mbane

The days are becoming shorter and the nights and early mornings cooler. African Farming went to find out what our farmers are busy with this autumn.

CHICKENS – Mhlobo Mbane, Sompondo, Alice, Eastern Cape

We recently took out our last batch of chickens and are getting ready for the new batch, which should be here in a week. We’ve cleaned and disinfected the houses using ViruKill, a disinfectant that prevents bacterial build-up.

We get sawdust from the local sawmill and put it down as bedding, then we leave the house for two days before we put the chickens in. Many chicken farmers prefer to use sunflower husks as bedding, but here in the Eastern Cape we use sawdust because it’s available.

The new chicks are given a stress pack (feed) for three days before we start our 32-day vaccination programme for Newcastle disease, gumboro and infectious bronchitis.

Vaccines are administered through the drinking water. For a batch of 1 000 doses, this works out to one bottle of the vaccine in 40 litres of water. The vaccine must be used within three hours otherwise it is no longer effective.

To make sure the chickens drink the water within three hours, we switch off the water supply for two hours before we administer the vaccination.

This means they are very thirsty by the time the water containing the vaccine is turned on. They drink it up quickly. Seven days after the arrival of the day-old chicks, we vaccinate against Newcastle disease.

On Day 14 we give a combined vaccine for Newcastle and gumboro. On Day 21, we do Newcastle again and then on Days 26 and 32 we vaccinate for infectious bronchitis.

By then they’re about four weeks old and weigh between 1,6kg and 1,9kg. We feed starter feed until they are 17 days old and then give them grower or finisher, depending on availability.

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