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Your Animal Doctor

Saturday March 10 2018

A poultry farmer feeds her kienyeji chicken.

A poultry farmer feeds her kienyeji chicken. Always clean the chicken house and also spray with acaricides to keep away chicken fleas and lice. FILE PHOTO | NMG  

JOHN MUCHIBI
By JOHN MUCHIBI
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Curbing fleas in chickens

My Kienyeji chickens have been by attacked by some small, brownish pests that are all over them eyes and do not come off easily. What could these be and how do I control them?

Lucy Mutheu, Machakos

These are chicken fleas. They survive by feeding on the chickens’ blood. They cause distress to the birds as they keep on itching. In severe cases, the birds develop anaemia and drop productivity due to stress.

There are also chicken lice, small almost invisible parasites that crawl on your skin when you enter the chicken house.

There are different acaricides in the market that can be used to dip the birds to kill the fleas. The birds are dipped till the neck level into the acaricide.

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To kill the fleas around the eyes, you may dip a piece of cloth or a feather into the acaricide and apply around the eye.

Clean the chicken house and also spray with the acaricide. Provide the birds with space to sand bathe as this helps remove the fleas.

Fleas around the eyes can also be suffocated by applying liquid paraffin.

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Setting up a dairy farm

I’m planning to setup a small dairy farm. I need assistance and ideas on what to do next?

Mohammad Hama, Ghana

The key points are:

• Housing: You may go for a zero-grazing unit enough to accommodate the number of animals you intend to start with.

• Forage/feeds: If you have sufficient land, you may want to plant maize or sorghum, which you could use for silage-making. You can also plant Rhodes grass from which you can make hay. You should have a store to keep your hay.

• The foundation herd: You need to identify a good source of your initial herd; the quality of this foundation herd would determine your productivity going forward. Preferably, buy in-calf animals that have calved at least once but not more than twice. These would have records for their previous lactation. You are advised to buy in-calf animals to eliminate the risk of being sold an animal with reproductive problems that has difficulties conceiving. A vet must confirm the pregnancy for you.

• Disease control: In our part of the world, we spray animals weekly to control tick-borne diseases. You also vaccinate the animals against diseases such as lumpy skin, blackquarter, anthrax, Contagious Bovine Pleuropneumonia.

• Other management factors: Practice good milking hygiene, regular deworming, supplement feeds with mineral salts, have sick animals attended to by qualified vets, provide plenty of clean drinking water and you should also put in place a breeding programme, preferably with the use of artificial insemination.

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Basics on keeping dairy goats

I wish to keep dairy goats. I need information and ideas on the best goat breeds to keep in different climatic conditions, their management practices, feeding, nutritional and health requirements and their ideal housing designs and models.

George Momanyi, Nairobi

The common breeds include Toggenburg, Boer, Saanen, Alpine, Anglo Nubian and Angora. Most of these goats can adapt well under different climatic conditions.

Rearing of dairy goats starts with proper housing and one doesn’t require a lot of space to keep them. A good house should be raised a metre off the ground, should have proper ventilation and be well lit.

Each pen should measure about 4 by 5 metres and hold up to four goats. Each should be divided into two sides, one for resting and the other for feeding. The bucks, kids and the does should be housed separately.

The goats should be fed on napier grass mixed with desmodium, sweet potato vines and dairy meal (concentrate) to boost milk production.

Provide Intromin mineral blocks free choice. Clean water should be provided all the time. Good management practices must be observed.

These include proper record-keeping, maintenance of good hygiene, hoof trimming, timely vaccinations (Contagious Caprine Pleuro Pneumonia, Enterotoxemia), deworming at least once every three months and milking hygiene.

Dr John Muchibi is the head of animal health at Elgon Kenya Ltd.