Happy hens once more in Co. Meath

When Ray Reynolds, of Reynolds Farm Eggs in Gillstown, Navan, Co. Meath, noticed his hens were behaving differently, he knew something wasn’t right.

“When I walked through the flock, they were very nervous and seemed reluctant to go into the house,” Reynolds explained. After enlisting the help of his poultry vet, his vet decided to set some red mite traps and monitor the problem.

Poultry red mite infestation is second only to infectious bronchitis as the biggest cause of economic loss in layer and breeder operations in the UK and Ireland.

The average cost of a red mite infestation is around €0.57/hen/year. In more severe cases, infestations can cost up to €2.50/hen/year.

Red mite live and rapidly breed within the hen house and the surrounding areas; but they are light sensitive.

Adult and nymph stages emerge only at night from their colonies, hidden in the darkest places, to crawl onto and suck blood from the birds. This is before they retreat to darkness again for the day.

Thomas Gallagher, intensive territory manager for MSD Animal Health, explained: “Mite bites are painful and create skin irritation, which contributes to high-stress levels in infected birds.

Signs can include anaemia, loss of condition and the kind of restlessness that Ray was seeing.

A new poultry red mite treatment

The traps indicated a high level of infestation in the shed, so Ray’s vet recommended a new poultry red mite treatment.

“This was the first time the vet had prescribed the product, as it was only launched last month by manufacturers MSD Animal Health,” Gallagher said.

Heralded as a breakthrough in the fight against poultry red mite, it is a systemic treatment administered in drinking water.

Maureen Prendergast, veterinary advisor for MSD Animal Health, explained: “Traditional treatments applied to the outside of the birds or used in the poultry houses can be difficult to administer and potentially toxic to workers and hens.

We can now treat the whole flock through the drinking water and the red mites are killed when they suck the blood of the treated birds.

Enforcement of the EU directive controlling poultry disinfectants and mite powders (Biocidal Product Regulation 528/2012) has led to a reduction in the number of control options available to poultry farmers.

This product is a fully-licensed treatment with a withdrawal period of zero days for eggs and 14 days for meat, combined with a favourable safety profile.

The treatment was added to the hens’ drinking line via the dosing pump. Reynolds added: “It was really easy to treat all 8,000 birds using the drinker.

You just need to check the water lines before you start to make sure the medicine can go through properly and you’re away.

Hens must be give two doses – one week apart – to be successful.

“Red mite suck blood in the later stages of the life cycle. The life cycle can be as short as seven days; by giving two treatments you can be sure you have dealt with the mites causing the problem,” Prendergast added.

“When I went back to the farm for the second treatment, I could already see a considerable difference in the condition of the birds. Now we’ve completed the treatment, Ray reports that there is no evidence of mites in the shed.

“However, red mites are easily brought onto farms via people, equipment, egg crates and the like. We’ll be working together to come up with a strategy to prevent any further problems.”

Reynolds concluded: “Right from the day after the first treatment, I noticed a difference.

The birds seemed more settled and more like themselves. Now we’ve done the second treatment, they are right back to normal. Their feathers look better and they seem happier.

More information

Farmers wanting to assess and reduce the red mite presence on-farm should talk to their poultry vet and integrate any treatments into a wider biosecurity and flock health planning strategy.

Further information is available from your veterinary practitioner, the product SPC (summary of product characteristics) or MSD Animal Health, Red Oak North, South County Business Park, Leopardstown, Dublin 18, Ireland.

MSD Animal Health can be contacted at: 01-2970220 or email at: [email protected]. Click here for more information