Poultry Farming: How to Prevent Vaccine Failure

Vaccines help to prevent or minimize the impact of viral diseases. They are important because viral diseases cannot be treated with drugs. They can only be prevented with vaccines. If a poultry farmer is not careful to follow certain rules, the vaccine he administer will fail to protect his birds from viral diseases. And when this happens, many farmers end up blaming the vaccine manufacturers.

Vaccines can be given to birds through drinking water, by injection, eye drop, spray etc. The most common route for broiler is via drinking water and wing web puncture (for fowlpox vaccine). For egg layers it is via drinking water, wing web puncture (for fowlpox vaccine) and injections. You can get sample vaccination/medication plans for layers and broiler below:

Vaccination/Medication Plan for Layers
Vaccination/Medication Plan for Broilers

Below are rules that will help you prevent vaccine failure:

1. Vaccinate healthy birds only because sick ones cannot achieve optimum antibody level. Vaccines can also worsen the sickness and increase mortality.

2. Protect the vaccine from heat and direct sunlight. Whenever you go to buy a vaccine, take an insulated flask along. The vaccine seller will put ice with the vaccine to keep it cool. Failure to do this can lead to vaccine failure.

3. Read the vaccine’s user manual carefully and follow it. Follow guidelines put by the manufacturer like preparation method, usage, storage, route of administration etc. Also check the expiry date.

4. Avoid stress. Stress lowers chickens’ immunity and causes vaccine failure. Vaccinating stressed birds can cause disease outbreak. Sources of stress includes poor ventilation, cold, heat, excess humidity, transportation, high stocking density (overcrowding), poor hygiene, excess load of litter, nutritional deficiency, parasitism, debeaking, diseases, vaccination, re-housing etc.

One way to combat the bad effect of stress is to give additional vitamins, minerals and amino acids in feed or water. Do so some days before the stress period and through out the stress period. This applies to those stress you have no control over, such as transportation, debeaking, vaccination, re-housing etc. Others like poor hygiene, overcrowding, nutrient deficiency etc should be avoided.

Vaccinate birds early in the morning when the temperature is cool

3. Avoid using metal drinkers and containers for mixing vaccines. Metals may inactivate live vaccines and cause vaccine failure. Plastic drinkers and containers should be used.

3. Do not open the lid of the vaccine vial in the open because the vial is sealed under vacuum and will suck in contaminated air.
Use a sterile disposable syringe to reconstitute the vaccine or open the vial under water.
Avoid reused or disinfected needles and syringes.

4. For water vaccination, starve the birds of water and feed for 2 hours before you give the vaccine. This will ensure that all the birds drink sufficient amount of vaccine water. But please, it should not be more than 2 hours else the stress can cause them serious health and feed utilisation problems. During vaccination, provide feed.

Water starvation should be avoided with other means of vaccination such as injection, wing web etc.

QUANTITY OF DRINKING WATER – For drinking water vaccination, you need to give little vaccine water that can be consumed in 1.5 – 2 hours. Here is how to calculate it.

For 10-14 days old birds: 10-15 ml per bird.
So 100 birds will need 1000 to 1500ml (1 to 1.5L).

For 3-8 weeks old birds: 20-30 ml per bird or 2000 – 3000ml (2 -3 L) for 100 birds.

For birds greater than 8 weeks: 40ml per bird or 4000ml (4L) for 100 birds.

4. Dose accurately. Use 100 dose vaccine for 100 birds and 1000 dose for 1000 birds.

4. Do not add any antiviral agents like cleaning agents, chlorine, organic acids, peroxides or disinfectant to water before giving vaccines. They will kill the vaccine virus. If you use any of these agents, flush the water lines or drinkers with clean water and do not use them at least 24 hours in advance. So if you will be vaccinating tomorrow, don’t add them to the water today. Just use clean water.

Note that traces of soap or klin in the vaccine water can lead to vaccine failure. So make sure you rinse them off thoroughly from the drinkers, your hands, mixing bowls and anything the vaccine will come in contact with.

10. Add skimmed milk to the water 20 minutes before mixing in lasota or gumboro vaccine. The skimmed milk helps to distribute and stabilize the vaccine virus. It also protect it from chlorine. Amount to add is 2-2.5g per liter water. Simple hanging scale is a must have for every farmer. It will help you to measure correct dosage for drugs.

5. For those using nipple or bell drinkers, make sure you remove all residual water from the drinking lines by opening the end of the lines until vaccine water appear (the skim milk can be use as a marker for the vaccine water).

All non-vaccine water in bell drinkers should be poured out. Also know that extra water normally occupy the drinking lines and this water don’t reach the birds. Estimate the volume of this water and add it the the normal vaccine water. This means you have to increase the vaccine dose slightly.

6. For those using nipple or bell drinkers, make sure that the vaccine water is available to all the birds. Check all the nipple or bell drinkers to make sure that there is no blockage.

7. Encourage the birds to drink by providing bright light, feed and by periodically walking through the pen.

Make sure that there is sufficient drinking points. All the birds must be able to drink at the same time.

8. Allow the birds to drink the vaccine water for 1.5 to 2 hours. The higher the temperature, the lesser the time because vaccine efficacy decrease with increasing temperature.

9. After they have drank the vaccine water, flush the lines thoroughly with clean water and make sure that no residual vaccine water is left. Then provide fresh water.

11. Observe strict biosecurity measures. Without that, vaccination alone won’t save your flocks from diseases.

12. Mycotoxin in Feed: Mycotoxin is a toxin that is produced when feed gets mouldy. It lowers immunity and can lead to vaccine failure. Therefore, make sure that you feed your bird with high quality feed. Store feed in a dry and cool store. Wet feed will develop mould. When buying feed, check the expiry date. Most feed can only last for 3 months from date of manufacture.

If you mill your own feed, make sure you use high quality ingredients and also include toxin binder in the formulae.

13. Maternal immunity: Chicks can inherit immunity from their mother. This immunity is called maternal immunity. There will be vaccine failure when you give vaccine to chicks with high maternal immunity. Most vaccination plans overcome this by repeating vaccinations at certain intervals.

14. Heat Stress: Chickens are under heat stress if they breath through their mouth continuously. Long period of heat stress will lead to vaccine failure. You can prevent this by planting trees around the pen, proper pen design and installing fans.

15. Ammonia gas: This gas is emitted from wet droppings/litter and it is very dangerous to chickens. It smells like urine. Even very small amount can affect chicken health. Beware that chickens’ noses are close to the floor and so they will inhale lots of ammonia which you cannot perceive. So if you want to know how your birds feel, go down to their level and breath.

In case you don’t know, many farmers are struggling with diseases because of this gas. Apart from causing vaccine failure, ammonia also lowers birds’ immunity and leave them helpless against many diseases.

Keeping the litter dry will save your birds from many diseases. To find out how to reduce ammonia concentration to safe level, read: How to Prevent Wet Litter in Poultry Houses.

16. Pesticides Contaminated Feed: Pesticide traces in feed can also lead to vaccine failure. Pesticides are used to control weeds and insect pests by crop farmers. Some ingredients in poultry feed might be contaminated by pesticides. This usually happens when crops are sprayed with pesticide close to harvest time.

17. Follow strict stamping-out (all in all-out) principles to avoid cross-contamination between flocks. This means that you raise only one set of birds at a time – birds of the same age. Once you sell them off, clean and disinfect the pen. Wait for 2 weeks before you restock

18. Diseases and Parasites: Vaccinating sick birds or birds with parasites (tick, mites, worms etc) can lead to vaccine failure. Vaccinating sick birds is dangerous because it may lead to disease outbreak. Skip vaccination and treat sick birds until they recover.

As a blind precaution, give your birds multivitamins/minerals and a broad spectrum antibiotics like Erythromycin, tylodox or oxytetracycline (use preventive dosage not treatment dossage) 2 days before vaccination. Repeat the preventive treatment 2 days after vaccination. Erythromycin is very good as it helps boost birds’ immunity. Vitamins and minerals can be given 24 hours before and after vaccination.

Deworm your birds properly because internal parasites can lead to vaccination failure. Examples of dewormers include fenbendazole, niclosamide, praziquantel, Ivermectin, Piperazine etc. Young birds should be dewormed monthly until they reach 6 months of age. Thereafter do so every 3 months.

And that is it. Your success in agriculture will always depend on how well you follow instructions like this. Careless farmers don’t usually go far.

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