Should I Vaccinate?

This is a question often asked and depending upon whom you talk to, would often be met with mixed opinion. There are those that believe selective breeding for resistance is the answer and others that see no other option other than to vaccinate. My personal view sits somewhere in the middle with a belief that selective breeding for disease resistance is very important but vaccination of certain poultry diseases is warranted in some situations.

A big problem faced by poultry exhibitors is the exposure of ones birds to outside birds when attending a show. With each exhibitor adopting a different approach to disease control and throw in the fact that the judge goes from one pen to the next handling every bird, it is really a case of Russian Roulette with disease spreading.  In the majority of cases vaccinating your flock is simple and straight forward, giving your bird a small dose of the disease to allow the immune system to create the immunity to the particular disease you have vaccinated for.  Some vaccinations are inactive, but some are live viruses.  In the majority of cases vaccinated birds carry immunity but are not carriers, however, there are exceptions.  Birds vaccinated for Mareks and ILT (Infectious Laryngotracheitis) become carriers.

It is a common opinion that all fowl should be vaccinated for Mareks disease as this is very common and can be attributed to so much loss in poultry breeding. Mareks comes in several forms and is almost certain to affect your young flock at some time. Mareks is a disease that normally effects birds under 12 months of age, however it can strike at any age, but the most severe outbreaks occur in younger birds.  Many older breeders who were against vaccination, report years of being Mareks free only to have their flock nearly wiped out in a season of Mareks. There has been a large shift in attitude amongst breeders, with almost all top breeders now vaccinating against Mareks.  However, once vaccinated, birds become carriers.

Fowl Pox still remains a very common problem with poultry particularly in high mosquito areas. Some breeders have managed to breed resistance into their flocks and others reporting no further problems for many years after an initial outbreak. It certainly seems to come in cycles and it would be advisable to vaccinate if you are in heavy mosquito area. The procedure being an easy one, with a simple wing stab through the webbing of the wing.

It should be noted that the practice of good clean husbandry goes a long way to disease control in your flock but some things just cannot be avoided.  Following the correct vaccination procedure at the correct stage of the fowl's life is extremely important.  If correct vaccination procedure is not followed, you are potentially creating diseases that are resistant to treatment.