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Get on top of turkey diseases now warns Richard Jackson of Chicken Vet
2:23pm Friday 29th June 2012 in Poultry
You may be wondering why on earth I am writing about turkey diseases during the summer but it is over the coming weeks that many people who rear turkeys for Christmas will be buying in their poults. As with many diseases prevention is better than the cure and I hope this article will help turkey owners avoid disease issues.
The first problem you are likely to come across is coccidiosis. This is a parasite that invades the cells of the intestine and destroys them. This reduces the birds ability to absorb food and water leading to diarrhoea, weight-loss and dehydration. This damaged gut can allow bacterial overgrowth making the situation worse. Most birds look dull, have ruffled feathers and have diarrhoea (note unlike chicken coccidiosis, blood is rarely seen in their droppings). In severe cases either dehydration and/or a secondary bacterial infection can lead to death. After about eight weeks, turkeys are usually resistant to coccidiosis.
Treatment involves giving an anticoccidial medicine to kill the coccidiosis and if the birds are very ill then the use of antibiotics to control secondary bacterial infection may be of use. Electrolytes such as solulyte can be used to help rehydrate the birds and to make the water taste better, especially as some medications can be bitter.
Good hygiene is essential so clean and disinfect your accommodation after every batch. Remember that like chicken coccidiosis the coccidial eggs (oocysts) are very resistant and can survive in the environment for years. Not all disinfectants can destroy them so check if your disinfectant can kill coccidial oocysts. We recommend Interkokask.
The coccidial oocysts are not immediately infective and need hot, wet conditions to become infective. These conditions are readily provided by most poultry houses. You can reduce the speed at which the oocysts become infective by keeping clean dry bedding at all times and ensure any leaking drinkers are promptly repaired and water spillages are well bedded up.
Try to keep birds of different ages separate.
A coccidiostat can be included in your turkey feed or you can use routine anticoccidial agents in your turkey’s water.
Note the species of coccidiosis that infect chickens and turkeys are different and they cannot infect each other.
The next most common problem in turkeys is respiratory disease. In turkeys this is usually due to the Turkey RhinoTracheitis virus (TRT) and/or Mycoplasma gallisepticum of which there are a few strains.
These bacteria damage the respiratory tract of the birds, especially the upper respiratory tract leading to swollen sinuses (appearing as a swelling around the eye, hence in pheasants this is called bulgy eye), sneezing/snicking, runny nose and foamy eyes. In many cases secondary bacterial infections can come in, making the situation worse. Certain Mycoplasma species also cause joint swelling and lameness in turkeys.
Treatment involves antibiotics which will help the birds but remember Mycoplasma infection is for life and the symptoms may go away but the condition can flare up especially in stressful situations. Sometimes the sinuses become filled with hardened pus and your bird may require a vet to lance the abscess to release the pus.
In a backyard situation with free ranging birds, preventing respiratory disease can be tough but you can reduce the chances of your poults contracting these problems and reduce the severity of them if they do happen.
Mycoplasma can come through the egg so check your poult supplier if the parent birds are tested and are free from Mycoplasma.
Try to keep your poults separate from other birds i.e. older turkeys or other fowl as TRT and certain Mycoplasma species can infect both turkeys and chickens.
You can vaccinate your poults for TRT virus. There is no licensed Mycoplasma vaccine for turkeys in the UK.
Finally keep your turkey house well ventilated and free from draughts.