Thursday, June 3, 2021

New Product In Battle With Feral Hogs

 

 Feral hogs

 

Texas Agriculture Commissioner Sid Miller announced a new tool in the war against feral hogs with the release of a new hog contraceptive bait entering the market this week. A new product called HogStop is being released with the goal of curbing the growth of the feral hog population in Texas over time. 

“The feral hog problem has exploded into a crisis,” said Commissioner Miller, “Texas farmers and ranchers need every tool they can get their hands on to stop these hogs.  With this new product, we’re one step closer to my goal of making feral hogs an endangered species in Texas.”

According to recent reports, the feral hog population in Texas has swelled to over 2.6 million.  Feral hogs cause an estimated $52 million in damages, not just to farm and ranch land, but to urban areas, parks, golf courses.  Feral hogs were even responsible for at least one human death in the last few years.

An all-natural contraceptive bait, HogStop targets the male hog’s prodigious ability to reproduce.   Feral hogs have the highest reproduction rate of any similar species and can produce a new litter every three months or so and can produce litters of up to 20.

“I am very excited about this new product, Hogstop,” Miller said. “This could be a great new weapon in the war on feral hogs.  It appears that unlike other hog baits, this is not a poison.  Instead, it interrupts the reproduction of this animal over time, and therefore makes the product more humane.  Hogstop, or any other product that is available to help Texas farmers and ranchers curb the damage done by these feral hogs, is welcomed at the Texas Department of Agriculture.”

Hogstop is considered a 25 (b) pesticide by the EPA, and as such, does not have to be registered by TDA before use.

“Contraceptive baits like HogStop work to strike a blow against the exponential growth of the feral hog population in Texas,” said Miller.  “As we fight to find other ways to eradicate these pests, these kinds of products can knock down the numbers over a period of time.”

For more information about HogStop, visit their website at www.hogstop.com

 

 

 

 

Information provided is for educational use only and does not serve as an endorsement by Texas A&M AgriLife for reposting this article.

 

Thursday, May 27, 2021

Food scraps get a bold new life Worldwide industrial and household food waste amounts to hundreds of billions of pounds per year PUBLISHED ON MAY 26, 2021

 Researchers at The University of Tokyo Institute of Industrial Science repurpose food waste to build materials with a bending strength comparable to concrete and that still taste good (Photo: Institute of Industrial Science, the University of Tokyo)

TOKYKO — Most people don’t think much about the food scraps they throw away; however, investigators from the Institute of Industrial Science at The University of Tokyo have developed a new method to reduce food waste by recycling discarded fruit and vegetable scraps into robust construction materials.

Worldwide industrial and household food waste amounts to hundreds of billions of pounds per year, a large proportion of which comprises edible scraps, like fruit and vegetable peels. This unsustainable practice is both costly and environmentally unfriendly, so researchers have been searching for new ways to recycle these organic materials into useful products.

“Our goal was to use seaweed and common food scraps to construct materials that were at least as strong as concrete,” explains Yuya Sakai, the senior author of the study. “But since we were using edible food waste, we were also interested in determining whether the recycling process impacted the flavor of the original materials.”

The researchers borrowed a “heat pressing” concept that is typically used to make construction materials from wood powder, except they used vacuum-dried, pulverized food scraps, such as seaweed, cabbage leaves, and orange, onion, pumpkin, and banana peels as the constituent powders. The processing technique involved mixing the food powder with water and seasonings, and then pressing the mixture into a mold at high temperature. The researchers tested the bending strength of the resulting materials and monitored their taste, smell, and appearance.

“With the exception of the specimen derived from pumpkin, all of the materials exceeded our bending strength target,” says Kota Machida, a senior collaborator. “We also found that Chinese cabbage leaves, which produced a material over three times stronger than concrete, could be mixed with the weaker pumpkin-based material to provide effective reinforcement.”

The new, robust materials retained their edible nature, and the addition of salt or sugar improved their taste without reducing their strength. Furthermore, the durable products resisted rot, fungi, and insects, and experienced no appreciable changes in appearance or taste after exposure to air for four months.

Given that food waste is a global financial burden and environmental concern, it is crucial to develop methods for recycling food scraps. Using these substances to prepare materials that are strong enough for construction projects, but also maintain their edible nature and taste, opens the door to a wide range of creative applications from the one technology.

–Institute of Industrial Science (IIS)
University of Tokyo


Tuesday, April 20, 2021

Veterinarian covers key health risks our ranch dogs are up against "Our dogs are always there for us, and we owe it to them to shield them from any potential health risks." PUBLISHED ON APRIL 19, 2021–Valley Vet Supply

 



MARYSVILLE, Kan. — He went to open the gate toward another pasture on the family’s South Texas ranch, and his dog Hilda, an Australian shepherd, wouldn’t let him take another step — soon, he learned why. Underneath a tumbleweed-like shrub known as Barba De Chivo, was a rattlesnake. “Hilda kept me there long enough that when I made my way to the gate, the rattlesnake was gone. She was protecting me,” recalled President of Valley Vet Supply, Omar Hinojosa. “She was always with me and was my second set of eyes, watching over me — we had some very protective mama cows. Our dogs are always there for us, and we owe it to them to shield them from any potential health risks.”

For key dog health advice, we turned to Paul DeMars, DVM, DABVP, clinical associate professor at Oklahoma State University’s College of Veterinary Medicine, who said especially for our ranch dogs, “The biggest risks are parasites and tick-borne illnesses, in which most are preventable. We have some great, easy-to-use and cost-effective preventatives for heartworm, flea and tick control, and parasites.”

Risk No. 1: Heartworm disease

Transmitted by mosquitoes, heartworm disease is a serious and potentially fatal disease affecting a number of mammals. Dr. DeMars warns, “With heartworms being spread by mosquitoes, dogs that spend more time outdoors will get more mosquito bites.” Heartworm risk remains throughout the year, as mosquitoes will shelter from the colder months indoors or other protected areas.

Dr. DeMars said, “Every dog should be on a year-round heartworm preventative.” Heartworm preventatives can cost an average of $10 per month, compared to heartworm treatment, which can cost more than $1,000 or the priceless cost of a dog’s life. Make sure dogs never miss an annual heartworm test, and keep them on a heartworm preventative to protect against the risk.

Unlike other worms that are detected in a fecal sample, heartworms are detected through a blood test in a yearly, scheduled veterinary exam. Ensure heartworm testing is included in your pet’s annual exam with your veterinarian, as the earlier heartworm disease is detected, the better the chances for survival, should your dog test positive for heartworms.

Early on, most pets do not demonstrate symptoms, but as heartworm disease progresses, infected dogs may develop a persistent cough, fatigue, decreased appetite and weight loss. Dogs with increased numbers of heartworms are at risk for cardiovascular collapse, as the worms suddenly block blood flow within the heart.

Risk No. 2: Fleas and ticks

Fleas can transmit harmful bacterial pathogens and tapeworms when ingested during a pet’s self-grooming. Fleas also cause anemia and intense itching in pets. Some dogs may also develop flea allergy dermatitis, which results from an allergic reaction to flea saliva.

Like fleas, ticks also transmit harmful bacterial pathogens. One of the most dangerous and common tick-borne infectious diseases in dogs includes Ehrlichia Infection, which can cause lameness, eye issues such as blindness, neurological problems, weight loss and swollen limbs. “The most commonly recognized sign is low blood platelets (colorless blood cells that help blood clot), which then cause bleeding if the platelets are low enough,” warned Dr. DeMars. Among other diseases, ticks also transmit Rocky Mountain spotted fever and Lyme disease.

It could take as long as 21 days for a pet to show signs of disease. In the case of Lyme disease, it can take as many as five months before signs become recognizable. Watch pets closely for changes in behavior or appetite, if there is any concern they have been bitten by a tick.

Common tick- or flea-borne disease symptoms:

  • Lethargy
  • Weakness
  • Fever
  • Enlarged spleen or lymph nodes
  • Weight loss
  • Gum discoloration
  • Joint pain
  • Swelling or stiffness of joints

There are several types of flea and tick control products, including oral or topical medications, powders and sprays, collars, or shampoos and dips. “While older topical products exist, newer products are even more effective,” said Dr. DeMars.

Risk No. 3: Intestinal parasites 

There are many different types of worms in the environment that can affect our dogs. Regularly deworming with a wormer that is specifically developed for dogs is the safest option to relieve their parasite burden. Learn about the four most common worms in dogs, below.

  1. Hookworms attach themselves to a dog’s intestines and generate thousands of eggs within days. Your dog can come in contact with them walking through contaminated grass and soil. Signs can include diarrhea, weight loss, poor coat, slow growth and dehydration.
  1. Roundworms thrive in contaminated soil and feces and are often found in young puppies, as well as adults. Signs include diarrhea, blood in stools, weight loss, poor hair coat, vomiting, lethargy, swollen stomachs and even colic.
  1. Whipworms reside in infected soil and especially present risks when dogs dig in the dirt. Signs can include severe diarrhea, weight loss, bloody or mucus-covered stools, blood loss, dehydration, anemia, or worse.
  1. Tapeworms can be seen caught in a dog’s fur around their rear. Often, they are transmitted through fleas, as the flea ingests the worm larvae and then the dog ingests the flea; they’re also transmitted through infected soil. Signs can include diarrhea or bloody stool, change in appetite, poor coat and weight loss, abdominal pain and scooting (less common).

Dr. DeMars also shared the importance of arthritis acknowledgment and prevention. Watch for signs of arthritis, like limping, abnormal posture, reduced activity or mobility, decreased muscle mass or abnormal grooming, as arthritic pets often lick, bite or chew on painful areas.

“The older pets get, the more likely they are to have arthritis problems; however, arthritis can occur earlier in life and happen at any age,” said Dr. DeMars. Do not wait until your dog has a serious arthritis problem to discuss the issue with your veterinarian, urges Dr. DeMars.

“Sometimes, people have a misunderstanding they have to wait, but if an animal is no longer moving or rising as well as they once were, there are effective medications their vet can prescribe to help with mobility issues. Even if they think it’s just normal behavior from aging, like a change of attitude, appetite or mobility – bring it up with your veterinarian. It never hurts to say, ‘What do you think about this, Doc?’”

Special joint mobility diets, prescription medications and supplements also can support aging, arthritic dogs. “We’re lucky to have many more tools available today than when I was growing up, so we can give our dogs the best in preventative health care,” said Hinojosa. “We can take steps to keep them healthy and happy so they can live out as many days as possible alongside us on the ranch. They are part of the family.”

Monday, April 12, 2021

Texas Soil and Water Stewardship Week Week highlights the importance of healthy forests PUBLISHED ON APRIL 11, 2021 - Morning AgClips

 

 

 Forest landowners are an important part of Texas agriculture and the stewards of this resource. (robert thigpen, Flickr/Creative Commons)

 

TEMPLE, Texas — The Texas State Soil and Water Conservation Board, Association of Texas Soil & Water Conservation Districts, Texas A&M Forest Service, Texas Wildlife Association, and Texas and Southwestern Cattle Raisers Association have partnered to highlight Soil and Water Stewardship Week and the importance of voluntary land stewardship in Texas. The statewide campaign is April 25 through May 2, 2021, and the focus this year is “Healthy Forests, Healthy Communities.”

Forest landowners are an important part of Texas agriculture and the stewards of this resource. They work closely with their local Soil and Water Conservation District (SWCD) and the Texas A&M Forest Service (TFS) district office to implement conservation practices that promote the health and sustainability of forests and forest ecosystems. These privately-owned forests contribute significantly to the Texas economy and provide numerous environmental and social benefits.

If recent events have taught us anything, it is that forests are extremely important. From the unprecedented shortages of daily supplies like toilet paper, to the health benefits of being around trees and nature during stressful times, forests improve our quality of life and our communities.

To truly have a healthy forest, proper management and conservation is needed. Thankfully, many forest landowners in Texas are implementing beneficial conservation practices such as strategic tree plantings, prescribed burning, brush management to remove diseased trees and invasive species, native grass management, wildlife management, and even bee propagation to stimulate pollination. In certain instances, livestock can be included as part of a prescribed grazing plan to strategically manage the leaf litter, soil, and underbrush in a forested area, which can ultimately assist in preventing wildfires. Without these sustainable management practices, problems such as soil erosion, insect and disease outbreaks, invasive species encroachment, declines in biodiversity, and even catastrophic wildfires can occur.

Trees filter air, reduce ambient temperatures, absorb carbon dioxide, and produce oxygen. They help conserve energy by casting summer shade and blocking winter winds. Tree roots hold the soil in place and fight erosion. Trees absorb and store rainwater, reducing runoff and sediments after storms, which also helps recharge groundwater supply and prevent flooding.

Essential products made from trees include paper products and lumber. Trees also offer habitat and food to birds, insects, lichen, fungi, mammals, and reptiles. Finally, trees increase our quality of life through a relaxing effect, reducing stress.

This campaign aims to bring more awareness and support to voluntary land stewardship because the way we manage our resources on private lands directly impacts our forestry resources.

The Texas Soil and Water Conservation Board is proud to collaborate with conservation partners across Texas to promote the importance of land stewardship.

With proper management and the implementation of conservation practices, Texas forest landowners are improving and sustaining healthy forests. These forests not only provide healthy trees for production agriculture but allow for healthy communities of organisms in the soils, healthy communities of wildlife, and in some cases, provides healthy livestock for your own community. Your local SWCD and TFS district office have been assisting forest landowners and agricultural producers with conservation practices for almost 85 and 100 years, respectively.

Partnering organizations in the “Healthy Forests, Healthy Communities” public awareness campaign includes Agriculture Teachers Association of Texas, Ag Workers Insurance, Ducks Unlimited, Earthmoving Contractors Association of Texas, Exotic Wildlife Association, Independent Cattlemen’s Association of Texas, Plains Cotton Growers, Project Learning Tree, San Antonio River Authority, South Texans’ Property Rights Association, Texan by Nature, Texas A&M AgriLife Blacklands Research and Extension Center, Texas A&M Forest Service, Texas A&M Natural Resources Institute, Texas Agricultural Cooperative Council, Texas Agricultural Land Trust, Texas Association of Dairymen, Texas Cattle Feeders Association, Texas Conservation Association for Water and Soil, Texas Farm Bureau, Texas Forestry Association, Texas Grain and Feed Association, Texas Grazing Land Coalition, Texas Hemp Growers Association, Texas Independent Ginners Association, Texas Land Trust Council, Texas Logging Council, Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, Texas Poultry Federation, Texas Sheep and Goat Raisers Association, Texas Water Resources Institute, and USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service.

For more information on “Healthy Forests, Healthy Communities”, please visit www.tsswcb.texas.gov.

–Texas State Soil and Water Conservation Board

Friday, April 9, 2021

Texans could see severe weather in April, May By Jennifer Whitlock Field Editor - reprinted from Texas Agriculture Daily - Texas Farm Bureau

 

 

 

Gusty winds blew spring weather across Texas in March, but April and May could bring severe weather, according to Tom Bradshaw, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service (NWS) in Fort Worth.

“Wind was the big story during the month of March. That contributed to some breakout of wildfires across the central and western parts of the state. It was also a very dry month with precipitation values well below 50 percent of normal across most of Central, South and West Texas. Really, the Panhandle is the only part of the state that had any kind of appreciable precipitation last month,” Bradshaw said in an interview with the Texas Farm Bureau Radio Network. “But when we look at the severe weather climatology for the state of Texas, the two months that really stand out are April and May.”

Being prepared for severe weather is important in this volatile time from mid- to late spring.

Bradshaw noted from mid-April through the end of May, Texas often sees an increased frequency of strong frontal passages with supercell thunderstorms forming ahead of the fronts. Dry line activity can form and contribute to the development of large hail and damaging winds. And it also creates potential for tornadoes and flash flooding.

Texans should have a severe weather safety plan in place and be ready to act when there are alerts about severe thunderstorms, tornadoes and flash flood watches or warnings in their area, he said.

A weather watch may be issued hours before a storm develops and indicates conditions are favorable for severe thunderstorms or tornadoes. Bradshaw recommends residents continue to monitor the situation and check weather information frequently for updates or changes.

A warning precedes an actual weather event. When a tornado warning is issued, it contains information that lists the cities and towns in the path of a tornado.
Because of the way radars work, however, NWS information says times and locations may be off by minutes or miles, and storms can move unpredictably. So, a warning in one area does not mean residents in nearby locations should drop their guard.

As part of “spring cleaning,” emergency safety plans should be reviewed, and preparedness kits should be inspected.

“Folks need to have their severe weather safety plan dusted off, and they need to be ready to do what they need to do when they receive information about severe thunderstorm or tornado watches or certainly tornadoes or thunderstorm or flash flood warnings for their area,” Bradshaw said.

Meanwhile, the Texas drought monitor still shows extreme drought and exceptional drought in West Texas, Far West Texas and South Texas.

As of March 30, 89 percent of the state was in some stage of drought, according to the United States Drought Monitor. Bradshaw said he hopes traditional April showers will break some of those drought patterns.

“Climatologically, April tends to be a little wetter month for the state of Texas. We are hoping that we’ll see more fronts coming down into the state and forming showers and thunderstorms across the area. But the long-term forecast continues to show below-normal rainfall potential for the state,” he said. “Unfortunately, temperatures are going to be above normal. According to the outlook, once we get into April, you start seeing a lot of 80s and even 90s start creeping into the picture across most of the state toward the end of the month.”

NWS has information on severe weather safety and survival, including steps to take when a watch or warning is issued.

For more information on building an emergency preparedness kit and to learn more about wireless emergency alerts, visit ready.gov.

 

Tuesday, March 30, 2021

USDA will not mandate RFID tags…yet APHIS will move forward with rulemaking process Anna Miller, WLJ managing editor Mar 26, 2021 Updated Mar 26, 2021

 


 

USDA recently announced radio frequency identification (RFID) tags will not be mandated as the only tag option for interstate movement of cattle and bison, after reviewing public comments from a 2020 proposal. The agency will use the rulemaking process to proceed with their proposal, and therefore the original notice issued will not be finalized. All other approved forms of identification may be used until further notice.

Background

In the spring of 2019, USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) quietly announced they would be requiring RFID tags over the traditional metal bangs tags. Producers would have four years to switch to RFID tags, and by January 2023, the tags would be mandatory for moving cattle and bison interstate movement.

USDA announced its decision in the form of a factsheet on its website, not through the standard rulemaking process. The agency removed the factsheet from its website shortly after then-President Donald Trump issued two executive orders in October 2019 to stop federal agencies from imposing rules without following the rulemaking process.

APHIS released a statement on animal disease traceability later that month, stating, “Last April, APHIS posted a factsheet to provide producers with information about the agency’s guidelines and goals related to Animal Disease Traceability [ADT]. Since the factsheet was posted, APHIS has listened to the livestock industry’s feedback.”

However, the agency noted it still believed RFID tags were the best option for cattle and bison producers.

Ranchers-Cattlemen Action Legal Fund United Stockgrowers of America (R-CALF) sued the agency in 2019 upon learning of the factsheet. The group called the regulation an abuse of discretion and a violation of both the Federal Advisory Committee Act and Regulatory Flexibility Act by not involving interested parties or considering effects on small entities.

Last summer, APHIS announced it was seeking public comment on a proposal to require RFID tags for interstate travel by 2023. The comment period closed in October, and on March 23 after reviewing the 944 public comments, APHIS declared they would not mandate the proposal, but would instead use the rulemaking process for future actions related to the proposal.

“APHIS continues to believe that RFID tags will provide the cattle industry with the best protection against the rapid spread of animal diseases and will therefore continue to encourage the use of RFID tags while rulemaking is pending,” the agency said in its announcement.

In response, R-CALF USA CEO Bill Bullard said, “Today’s announcement is good news for U.S. cattle producers as it means the impending threat of a costly RFID mandate is now removed, but we must not stop defending the rights of producers because it’s clear the agency fully intends to continue efforts to force this costly mandate upon America’s independent cattle producers."

R-CALF was one of many industry groups who submitted comments last year, as did the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCBA). R-CALF urged the agency to revoke the notice.

In NCBA’s comments, then-President Marty Smith said, “NCBA supports the USDA proposal to transition to RFID ear tags as the official identification for currently covered cattle and bison moving interstate.”

However, Smith said while NCBA supports developing a national animal disease traceability system, the organization had concerns with USDA’s proposed transition to the system. Such concerns included increased costs and infrastructure changes, efficient flow of cattle through the supply chain, and data confidentiality.

“NCBA looks forward to working with USDA, APHIS to implement the proposal for RFID technology for official identification of currently covered cattle and bison as well as working together to address the issues that we have raised in our comments,” the comments concluded.

As APHIS considers a rulemaking process related to animal disease traceability and use of RFID tags, the agency said it will continue to share new information and there will be opportunity for public comment during the rulemaking process.

Wednesday, March 3, 2021

Protect backyard chickens from disease, parasites Bird, flock health critical for production, sustainability PUBLISHED ON March 1, 2021 –Adam Russell Texas A&M AgriLife Extension

 COLLEGE STATION, Texas — With interest in backyard chicken production during COVID-19 increasing the number of small flocks in Texas, experts are advising producers, especially beginners, to focus on the health of their birds for sustainable success.

There are two preventative measures backyard producers can practice to protect their flocks – basic but consistent biosecurity and buying vaccinated birds, said Martin Ficken, DVM, Ph.D., resident director of Texas A&M Veterinary Medical Diagnostic Laboratory’sTVMDLSam and Sally Glass Poultry Diagnostic Laboratory, Gonzales.

Chickens face many common diseases and pests, including internal and external parasites, that can negatively impact a flock, he said. But buying vaccinated birds and practicing biosecurity – or procedures and practices that can protect the flock from outside pathogens and pests – can greatly reduce potential problems.

Ficken said he strongly recommends backyard producers establish a relationship with a local veterinarian for consultations regarding diagnosing problems and treatments within flocks.

“We’re here to help but having a local veterinarian who can diagnose the problem and talk you through the options for any number of situations is a valuable component to any backyard producer,” he said. “They can also give you tips on preventing health problems specific to your operation, which is always better than reacting to a problem.”

Backyard chickens in Franklin, Texas. (Texas A&M AgriLife photo by Laura McKenzie)

Vaccinations prevent disease in backyard chickens

Ficken said flocks should only be started and/or expanded with vaccinated birds from reputable sources.

Buying birds vaccinated for Marek’s disease or inoculating chicks upon hatching is the best way to prevent more than 90% of opportunities for the disease to spread. Marek’s disease can devastate flocks, and Ficken said it is everywhere.

Birds with Marek’s disease become lame or suffer neurological damage that continues to deteriorate, he said. Unvaccinated birds typically become infected within a few weeks of hatching.

“In my mind, every bird is infected within the first few weeks, and you can’t keep it out,” he said. “It’s going to be an issue unless the birds are inoculated, and the inoculations are good for the life of the bird. They’re not 100% effective, but it’s close and it cuts down on problems.”

Ficken said backyard producers can vaccinate their own chickens, but he recommends inoculations within the first day of hatching.

While Marek’s disease is a common and serious threat to backyard flocks, the most common problem is respiratory illnesses typically related to mycoplasmosis, Ficken said. With mycoplasmosis, birds become sick, but infections are not typically fatal unless the animal has or develops secondary issues that compound the illness.

Signs of mycoplasmosis include coughing, nasal discharge, swollen sinuses, conjunctivitis and secondary bacterial infections, Ficken said. Infections are treatable with antibiotics.

Ficken said a common scenario for a mycoplasmosis outbreak is the introduction of asymptomatic birds to an established flock. The birds are introduced without quarantine and shed the disease through bodily fluid and waste for other birds to become infected.

Backyard producers should also monitor for pox lesions, Ficken said. Vaccinations can prevent or put an end to pox outbreaks. The disease is spread by vectors like mosquitoes.

Backyard chickens best practices

Ficken said biosecurity is the best way to protect a flock from an outside pathogen, but that it takes diligence. Exposure to outside pathogens can happen in many ways, including contact with new chickens or wild birds, vectors like mosquitoes or even contact with a pathogen brought in on the bottom of a shoe, clothing or hands of the person tending the flock.

“Biosecurity principles are easy to understand but hard to practice because you can’t make a mistake,” he said. “It’s so easy to walk something in on the bottom of your shoe if you don’t maintain a high degree of scrutiny when it comes to what the flock is exposed to.”

Backyard producers should have dedicated clothes or a pair of coveralls and shoes that are strictly for entering the coop area. They should also practice good hygiene like washing hands before and after entering the coop.

Cleaning the coop and other areas frequented by chickens will also reduce the risk of a pathogen establishing within the flock.

“You have to scrape the litter out eventually because chickens aren’t discriminatory with their droppings,” he said. “A buildup can help amplify problems if birds are shedding a pathogen, and pretty soon you have a full-blown problem. Cleanliness on the ground, perches and nests should be considered part of the biosecurity to maintain the health and welfare of your flock.”

Quarantine new chickens and monitor flock

Ficken also suggests quarantining new chicks and adult birds for three weeks before introducing them to the flock. Monitoring and physically inspecting them for signs of pathogens and tag-alongs like mites could prevent a small problem from becoming a big problem.

External parasites like mites, fleas and lice are easy to catch and treat during quarantine, but also easy to miss if you are not looking, Ficken said. Sulfur dust is a cheap and easy way to keep chickens and frequented areas clear of mites. Topical parasiticides for birds and treatments or pressure spraying the coop may be required for lice, fleas and ticks.

“Treating one bird is much easier than dealing with an infestation that requires treating the whole flock and the areas they frequent,” he said. “But I’ve also seen a lot of examples of how detrimental external parasites can be to bird health and production, even birds dying of anemia due to severe blood-letting.”

Internal parasites are another health issue that can spread through a flock, Ficken said.

Coccidiosis is a common gastrointestinal disease that occurs due to an internal parasite, Ficken said. The pathogen is a single-celled organism that is typically introduced to the flock via the producer’s shoes or equipment used in the coop. The infection spreads as the host bird sheds the disease via fecal matter.  Signs of coccidiosis are diarrhea, listlessness and stunted growth.

A bird that eats heavy rations but still loses weight is a good indication of internal parasites, he said. Diarrhea is another potential sign. There are a number of treatment options for internal parasites, including coccidiosis, available.

More resources

Ficken said Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service and TVMDL have numerous resources to inform backyard producers and help them navigate potential problems, but he reiterated that building a relationship with a local livestock veterinarian is one of the best ways to manage your flock.

“The health of your flock is a responsibility from an animal welfare point, but it’s also critical as it relates to the backyard producers’ expectations and goals for the birds,” Ficken said. “Maintaining basic but diligent protocols and procedures when it comes to biosecurity and reducing health risks among the birds is the best way to sustain a flock and ultimately find success.”