ViParc community advisory boards on disease, mortality and antibiotic usage in chickens
Ho Chi Minh City, 19 September 2018 – Two Community Advisory Boards (CABs) for ViParc met on 24 August in Dong Thap Province, helping researchers to explain common patterns and local differences in chicken production.
ViParc is a farm-based trial designed to help chicken farmers safely reduce antibiotic usage. Since June 2017, the project has regularly engaged community members on its research findings through the CABs in Cao Lanh and Thap Muoi Districts.
At the 24 August meetings, ViParc principal investigator Juan Carrique-Mas showed that antibiotic usage in Cao Lanh was higher than that in Thap Muoi. Specifically, Cao Lanh farmers used antibiotics in 34.7% weeks of production, while the figure for Thap Muoi farmers was 20.1%.
These results came from ViParc studying 88 farms in the two districts from November 2016 to December 2017, Dr. Carrique-Mas noted.
“The difference probably comes from Cao Lanh having a higher density of food animals. More animals, more pathogens, greater need to use antibiotics,” said CAB member Huynh Trong Nhan.
He elaborated that there is a strong fruit sector in Cao Lanh, so the farmers here tend to take advantage of the shades produced by their mango trees, for example, to create a fresh environment for livestock. Thap Muoi, on the other hand, is a wetland area, which explains why its farmers put a larger focus on rice production, not animal husbandry.
While some CAB members agreed with Mr. Nhan on the notion of more pathogens in Cao Lanh than Thap Muoi, ViParc’s research found no significant difference between the two districts in terms of chicken disease or mortality.
The project further found that farmers in both districts shared the habit of using antibiotics for disease prevention, especially during the brooding period.
This may be a psychological self-reassurance for the farmers, rather than a response to any known disease risks, according to CAB member Nguyen Thi Anh Dao, herself a district veterinarian and owner of a pharmacy.
“I sell two kinds of brooding medicine, those with and without antimicrobial agents. They don’t seem to yield any difference in the flocks I’ve seen,” she said, noting that brooding products without antimicrobials are more expensive.
Most farmers consider brooding, or the first few weeks in a chicken’s life, a sensitive period that requires special care for disease prevention. But that care, as per ViParc’s philosophy, should mean a commitment to good farming practices, not antibiotic prophylaxis.
While the Vietnamese Ministry of Agriculture aims to eliminate the use of antibiotics for disease prevention in animals by 2020, such vision has not been widely communicated to the public. In this context, ViParc attempts to make the case for raising healthy chickens without antibiotic prophylaxis.
ViParc is led by the Oxford University Clinical Research Unit in Ho Chi Minh City, with implementation support from the Sub-Department of Livestock Production and Animal Health in Dong Thap Province.