Respiratory disease in broilers can occur any time of year, but it’s especially problematic in winter months, when air and environmental conditions may become compromised as producers try to keep costs under control.
Maintaining good air quality is essential and is heavily influenced by ventilation techniques. When a house is underventilated, ammonia levels and litter moisture can rise to the point where they’re detrimental to the health of birds, predisposing them to respiratory disease.
Here are the important steps for this:
1. Bigger houses: One trend that may influence ventilation practice is variation in house size. Today, many poultry growers are choosing to build larger houses in an effort to efficiently raise more birds. However, the methods traditionally used to ventilate smaller houses may not yield the same results in larger houses.
2. Enough Care: Care must be taken to ensure that longer and wider poultry houses have the proper equipment and ventilation settings necessary to adequately move and exchange air. Air has to travel further and if airflow is uneven, birds at one end of the house might have fresh air, while birds at the other end don’t.
3. Maintain Equipment: Poorly maintained equipment is another problem that can lead to difficulty heating and ventilating the house. Old and unmaintained fans might still run, but that’s no guarantee that the cubic feet of air moved per minute is the same as it was when the fans were first installed. A fan may not be capable of moving the intended amount of air if shutters are dirty and belts need replacing. Air flow can be easily monitored using an air flow meter. Proper and regular maintenance is critical to make sure the systems are working properly.
4. Computerized, Automated systems: Computerized, automated systems with preset programs are handy and can work well if used appropriately. Advancements in farm equipment make it easy for growers to monitor the house condition and ventilation settings without having to enter the house. However, never assume birds are comfortable just because the computer indicates everything is running smoothly. There is no one-size-fits-all setting since the conditions for keeping birds comfortable and healthy can vary flock to flock. Because of this, it’s important to look at the birds regularly to make sure they are comfortable.
5. Monitor Ammonia levels: Ammonia levels should be monitored routinely throughout the life of the flock, and if they’re too high, ventilation settings must be adjusted to reduce the ammonia concentration. There are a number of different tools available for evaluating ammonia levels. Whichever tool you choose to use is fine as long as it yields consistently accurate results.
6. Vaccination: A vaccine program tailored to help protect against respiratory disease risks is essential and should be individualized, taking into account risks on the farm and in the geographic area.