The environment for rearing and maintaining poultry is a major factor that affects productivity. With an increase in relative humidity and reduction in temperature during the rainy season, the success of a poultry business is threatened by a range of changes experienced in birds. Some of the changes include the following;
Reduction in Egg Production
Daylight stimulates egg production in laying birds as they need sunlight for their endocrine systems to secrete egg-laying hormones. And during the cold season, the amount of daylight is greatly reduced. So, if layers are not getting enough light, the hormones are not released and egg-laying may drop as a result.
Also, moulting occurs during the cold season, and as layers shed their old feathers for new ones to grow, they typically stop laying and use this period to build their nutrient requirement. This is because a lot of the energy in their bodies is used to regrow feathers and less energy is available for egg production.
Extreme cold and rainy conditions trigger various pathogenic and parasitic diseases which can result in heavy losses in poultry production. Birds become stressed and this affects their production and ability to withstand diseases.
The ages of the birds also play a role as different age groups have unique requirements and abilities to survive the weather changes. Birds under two months of age and those over six months of age are more susceptible to infectious diseases.
Common disease symptoms during this season include respiratory distress, nervousness, diarrhoea, loss of appetite, ruffled feathers, swollen face and prostration. These observable symptoms may be associated with several diseases such as Gumboro, Fowl Pox, Fowl Cholera, E.coli and Salmonella, which are prevalent during the cold season.
Changes in Feeding Pattern
The variation in feed consumption is similar for each change in temperature but more prevalent when the weather is cold than when it is hot.
Low temperature causes more feed intake and higher oxygen demand. Also, the reduction in daylight during cold season greatly affects the feeding pattern of birds. This is because they tend to perform fewer activities and cuddle together to generate heat within to keep them warm and maintain a certain energy level.
Hence, they consume more feed to satisfy their energy requirement and perform their metabolic activities.
Reduction in Fertility and Hatchability
There is a comparatively much greater reduction in hatchability and fertility in the cold season when compared with the hot season. This may be attributed to the fact that during extreme cold there is much more difficult to continuously maintain the hatcher and setter temperature with the precision capable in another season.
Chicks hatched in rainy season usually have more mortality that dry or hot season. The comparatively higher mortality in chicks hatched during the rainy season can be attributed to the fact that there was difficulty in maintaining the appropriate brooding condition continuously due to low temperature especially during night hour.
Best Management Practices in Poultry Farming During Cold Weather
Poultry house should be designed in such a way that it provides all the comfort required by birds during the cold season with proper ventilation. In regions where it rains heavily, the floor should be raised with a generous roof overhang, particularly over the entrance to prevent rainwater from getting into the pen whenever it rains.
The raised floor can be a solid platform of the earth to prevent floods. Install electric brooders or heater in the pen to serve as a secondary source of heat for the birds. This would help the birds drink enough water and stay warm without getting the reserved energy used up in the process.
Also, provide fluorescent light to mimic daylight to sustain egg production level.
Since birds increase their level of feed intake to generate heat and stay warm during the cold season, energy-rich sources like oil/fat should be added to their diet or level of other nutrients should be reduced to keep the energy at the same level.
Therefore, when the weather gets colder, it is essential to give the birds high energy feed as they require extra energy for maintaining body temperature.
Provide birds with warm water periodically to encourage consumption and help them keep warm without using up energy reserved in the process.
The floor surface of the poultry pen should be covered with a bedding material called litter, as it gives comfort to the birds.
A good quality litter serves as insulation in maintaining uniform temperature, also absorbs moisture and promotes drying. It dilutes faecal material, thus reducing contact effects of the ground and provokes protection cushion between birds and floor.
Around 6 inches of litter is needed in housing during cold weather. If litter management is proper, it will feel warm when taken in the hand.
Vaccinate birds at the right time. A broad-spectrum antibiotic should be administered to the birds routinely to boost the immune system of the birds. Also, it is important to deworm poultry birds bi-monthly with effective dewormers such as piperazine, which help manage parasitic infestation from intestinal worms that might result from drinking from ground rainy water.