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Appropriate management practices and delivery of animal health services - key to successful backyard poultry rearing

by ruchita last modified Jan 08, 2014 04:04 PM

Sep 16, 2009

Sangeeta belongs to the village Machiwalewadi of Ratnagiri district in Maharashtra. Although she was good at her studies she could only study up to the 7th standard as she lost her father and had to work as an agricultural labourer to support her family. As a young girl, she helped her mother look after their backyard poultry flock along with the other household chores. They had a flock of four birds of which 3 succumbed to various diseases and only one survived. This hen was reared for the eggs it laid.

In 1998, Sangeeta was selected to be trained as an animal health worker by Anthra. Although she learnt the different aspects of health care of various livestock, poultry interested her the most. The intense training was spread over a year and a half and Sangeeta ensured that she attended all the sessions. Soon she was leading the class in all activities. She also made it a point to share her new knowledge regarding management practices with her community. These included ensuring clean water and grains; protecting birds from harsh weather conditions by providing them with a night shelter; using locally available herbs to prevent diseases; and preventive practices like vaccination and deworming to protect the birds from internal and external infections and infestations.

Post training, Sangeeta was employed by Anthra. As a part of her responsibilities she took care of the animal health in nearby villages. This also involved maintaining records of the diseases and poultry birds in the villages to get an idea about the effect of these interventions. These recordings helped her in scheduling vaccinations and taking other preventive measures before the onset of the diseases. The vaccinations were procured at subsidized rates from either the Veterinary Medicine shop or from the Institute of Veterinary Biological products (IVBP). While Sangeeta’s travel costs were borne by Anthra, villagers were charged Rs 1 to 2 per bird as service charges to cover the cost of the vaccines.

Initially the villagers were skeptical and unwilling to listen to the advice of a young 18 year old girl, some of whom also avoided vaccinating their birds. Nevertheless Sangeeta would patiently explain to them how diseases occur and the role of contaminated food and water in its spread. White diarrhoea disease in poultry was the other scourge that decimated poultry flocks in the region. Sangeeta shared that a pinch of potassium permanganate mixed with clean drinking water could help contain the spread of white diarrhoea. She also used the powder made out of the dried bark of the Terminalia belerica tree for treating sick livestock. The results exceeded expectations and many women in her neighbourhood similarly wanted to use the herbal powder. She also explained about the potential problems that could be encountered due to predators and faulty shelters. The results were soon evident as the mortality among the birds reduced considerably both in her house and in the village. Delighted with the results Sangeeta’s mother bought five new birds from the local market.

However the real change came when the Newcastle disease struck the village poultry. While the birds vaccinated by Sangeeta survived the catastrophe, all the other birds in the area succumbed to the disease. The villagers realized that Sangeeta although young was well informed and trained to take care of their poultry birds. They began inviting her to immunize their flocks too.

Today, Sangeeta is married and has left her maternal home. However, she continues to offer help and support to the women of Machiwalewadi. Some girls and women from Machwalewadi have voluntarily requested Anthra to provide them training on poultry management and vaccination so that the work can continue.

Contributed by - Anthra (2009)

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