Takoradi Poultry Farmers Fear Losses

GHANA - Poultry farmers in the Western Region are likely to lose thousands of Ghana cedis this Christmas if the Ministry of Food and Agriculture and the Veterinary Service Department do not intervene to end the deaths of their birds due to a bizarre outbreak of listlessness - and in severe cases, paralysis - in the birds.
calendar icon 11 November 2013
clock icon 5 minute read

According to GhanaWeb, the farmers say most of their birds can no longer eat or move, and are blaming the chicken feed, “broiler starter”, sold to them by GHAFCo - sole distributor of the feed, with agents and retailers across the country.

A visit by the B&FT to some farms revealed that the listlessness of the broilers started two months ago when most farmers bought chicks to rear for the Christmas season.

Kojo Darko, a poultry farmer at Ewusie Joe in the Ahanta West District, told the B&FT he first started to detect weakness in the movement of the broilers.

“I thought it was a normal infection that could be treated, but realised as the days went by that some could not walk properly; others too could not stand, while some were walking on one side of their body,” he said.

He explained that within a week almost half of the population in the coop had been affected, and in two weeks about 30 of them died.

He added that he discussed the issue with the broilers’ supplier in Takoradi, who confirmed that there had been a lot of complaints from other farmers on the same issue.

“Initially I blamed those who hatched the chicks, but realised that this has not happened since I started this business. So I sent a sample to the veterinary laboratory to diagnose what the disease is,” he said.

Dr Christoper Tagoe, the Western Regional Officer in charge of the Veterinary Service Department, in an interview with the B&FT explained that because of the rate of growth of broilers, they need well-balanced feed to get strong bones to be able to carry their weight.

“This is not happening, however, since the feed given to them lacks calcium. We have been advising farmers to add supplements to their feed and water, but still the situation persists,” he said.

According to him, all the farmers rely on one type of feed from GHAFCo, and the deformity used to be more pronounced in turkeys but started affecting layers and broilers some months ago.

“Some poultry farmers who are into layer-rearing also complained some time ago that the shells of the eggs were becoming too soft and, according to our research, it was from the feed used for them,” he said.

Poultry farmers in the country, he added, have trusted feed from GHAFCo for several years, but this year the feed seems to be failing them.

“It is our responsibility to diagnose and advise farmers on what to do, but there is still no headway - and this is a big challenge to their business, looking at the upcoming season when demand for broilers will increase.”

Kojo Darko, the farmer who spoke to the B&FT, said he was advised to add mashed shells to the feed to improve on the iron and calcium nutrients to strengthen the chickens’ bones; but this did not improve the situation.

Joseph Nsiah, an angry farmer this reporter met at one of the feed distribution shops in Takoradi, said: “I bought 400 day-old chicks for this season, and most cannot move whilst 89 of them have died at the moment.

“I was told to add supplements to their feed and water. I have done that, but there is no improvement; how do I get profit? And I am not getting any good explanation for what is happening; the feed too is becoming expensive.”

Jimmy Luff, Sales Representative of GHAFCo for the Western and Central Regions, stated first of all that Flour Mills Ghana Limited has taken over GHAFCo and has been selling feed under that brand; yet, the poultry farmers continue to refer to them as GHAFCo.

He also said his company has visited the farms and conducted tests on the feed at its laboratory, but is yet to find an answer to the problem.

According to him, it is not just the feed that can affect a bird’s health, but also how it is fed and the breed of bird.

He advised poultry farmers not to panic but to contact their distributor, who will follow-up to their farms and check on the birds.

“We are still doing our best to find out where the problem is coming from so it cannot repeat itself,” he said.

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