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Mass death of chickens triggers panic in Coimbatore

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Officials deny bird flu and cites starvation as reason

BROILER CHICKENS at a poultry farm
BROILER CHICKENS at a poultry farm

G. Gurumurthy

Death cause

The death

was caused by starvation and not due to the pandemic as feared.

Officials confirm

that the mass mortality was caused by pecking among birds.

Coimbatore, March 24

A mass death of about 800 chickens in a poultry farm at a village near Karumathampatti, 25 km from here, has led to anxiety among the residents living nearby and the officials had rushed to the scene of incident.

Officials from the animal husbandry department, the health department and those from the poultry growers' association, who arrived at the Moperipalayam village where the farm is located, maintained that the death was caused by starvation and not due to the pandemic as feared.

The 800 deceased birds formed part of the 6,000-odd chickens housed in the Moperipalayam poultry farm. The remaining 5,000-odd birds alive looked healthy.

Private poultry farm owner Ganesan said the integrated poultry firm, which took his farm on contract, failed to supply the feeds for the birds for the past one week and the poultry farmer had stopped feeding the live-birds to cut down losses. The officials claimed that the birds kept unfed for nearly a week now in the farm began fatally pecking each other and died. They cited the nature of wounds found on the carcasses.

Isolated incident

This is the first time mass death of chickens is being reported in this district which is considered the hub of the organised commercial broiler bird farming in the South. Also, the death of birds at Moperipalayam is fairly seen as an isolated incident as there has been no mass mortality of birds reported in any other farm in the district.

In fact, the birds housed in a nearby poultry farm a few hundreds yards away, remained healthy and no symptoms of disease were seen in them, the officials claimed.

Mr Murthy, Joint Director of Animal Husbandry Department, who along with other officials from his department visited the farm. later confirmed that the mass mortality was caused by pecking among birds as they were denied food. Hence, they started attacking each other which is a common trait among the birds raised in closed enclosures.

However, he said as a precautionary measure, his department had collected 20 samples from the live birds as well as the samples from the dead birds which would be sent for testing at the central referral laboratory in Chennai.

He also denied that there was any incident of bird virus in any part of the district. The death of the birds came to light when some of the villagers residing near the poultry farm noticed the dumping of the carcasses along the village road and they later alerted the revenue and the police officials fearing the birds would have died of avian flu.

Economic blow?

The incident has also brought to the fore the severe economic blow the poultry farmers and the integrated poultry operators suffered in recent weeks by way of loss of sale of chicken ever since the incident of the avian flu outbreak hit the country last month.

With most poultry farmers being engaged by the major integrated poultry producers as contract broiler producers, they depend on the integrators for all inputs including the feeds.

In order to check the loss, most poultry farms across the State are believed to have stopped feeding the birds, a major head of expenditure in the commercial broiler rearing, and allow the birds to die on its own - with a view to limiting the economic loss.

A commercial broiler bird despatched for sale at optimum body weight of 1.75/ 2 kg would have consumed 3.5 kg of feed worth Rs 35. But the prevailing market rate for broiler at Rs 10 a kg doest not even cover the feed cost, which works out to Rs 20.

This distress sale has been proving too hard on the commercial chicken producers and the franchisee farmers to continue to rear birds.

Related Stories:
Bird flu virus caused poultry deaths in Maharashtra: Minister
Over 50,000 birds dead in Nandurbar district

Bird flu scare impacting egg, chicken market

(This article was published in the Business Line print edition dated March 25, 2006)
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