Newcastle for football fans would be happy to think it is a football club based in the United Kingdom but to the poultry farmers this is a nightmare. Newcastle disease is one of the major constraints to production of rural indigenous chicken which constitutes 75% of chicken in Kenya reared especially by small holder farmers.
In Kenya outbreak of the Newcastle disease occurs at least twice a year with the timings varying from one region to another. Newcastle has been localized and baptized a name from one part of the country to another showing the great effect it has on farmers.
The clinical signs of Newcastle disease vary considerably according to the type of bird, age, health and environmental conditions of the bird. Some of the symptoms of chicken infected with virulent Newcastle disease virus may die without showing any sign of illness. In others the chicken fluffs its feathers and appears to have its coat dragging on the ground. Others seem sleepy and not feeding. Others show severe difficulty of breathing, distressed with some having twisted neck, swelling of the head and neck, greenish diarrhea while some have decreased egg production. Shaking, twisted neck and paralysis of wings and legs and many chickens may die sometimes. Normally ducks are resistant to the disease but some ducklings may be affected other poultry such as turkeys and pigeons also get affected.
According to Dr. Jane Wachira, Deputy Director, Kenya Veterinary Vaccine Institute (KEVEVAPI),”The new castle vaccine is a savior to small scale poultry farmers. This disease is viral and very contagious in nature; it kills upto 100 % infected chicken. We developed this vaccine together with other scientists to prevent deaths of 32,000 million chicken kept by Kenyan small holder farmers. Since the launch of the vaccine in 2012, we have witnessed an increase in farmers seeking to get the vaccine which is thermo tolerant (can withstand heat).”
The new castle vaccine retails for 1.50 Kshs, a syringe and a dropper are bought separately. Dr.Wachira confirms that due to the nature of poor infrastructure and high temperatures in many places in Kenya, they had to come up with a vaccine that will tolerate these challenges and at the same time save the farmers from Newcastle disease woes. The vaccine is easy to prepare and can be found in many of the agro dealer shops country wide. The vaccine should not be frozen and is to be stored at +2 to +8 c which last until the expiry date. The vaccine once diluted will last for two hours and therefore the farmer needs to carry it in a cool box like a small bag with a wet towel which is easily available at all household settings.
Damaris Nyinge, Animal Health Technician, Kenya Agricultural Research and Livestock Organization (KARLO),Naivasha advises “The vaccine is best given using a dropper and is placed into the eye of the chicken where there exists special glands which help absorb the vaccine in the chicken’s system,Only one drop in the eye is recommended for each chicken. This should be performed in a shade of during morning hours to avoid direct sunlight when administering the vaccine.”
Dr.Wachira agrees to the fact that this type of vaccine is easy to use and also very environment friendly to those farmers who commute to some distance to get to agro dealer shops.”So far we have sold New castle Vaccines to more than 1.2 million farmers across Kenya.”She says.
The vaccine is part of a joint project between the Government of Kenya and the European Union to a tune of 8.06 million Euros in science projects.