Former stock broker Charles King'ori is a poultry farmer rearing free-range chickens that have never suffered a disease, despite his type of chicken being the most susceptible of all to fatal diseases like Newcastle and Coccidiosis. He is among some 50 farmers in Subukia district of Nakuru county who are now growing Aloe Vera after finding it prevents most chicken diseases, in a discovery that has now received scientific backing.
Scientists now say the juice of the fleshy leaves has anti inflammatory properties that cure infections and also act like antibiotics. According to many scientific studies, done by KARI, the University of Zimbabwe and the Samar College of Agriculture and Forestry in the Philippines, the juice of the most common aloe protects chickens from coccidioses, and cures it, to some extent fights the Newcastle disease, and boosts the general immunity of chickens by 50 per cent.
But the farmers have relied on traditional wisdom that has been passed on by their fore fathers. “I have used it since I started keeping the chickens. I rear scavenging chicken and they are very prone to all these diseases, unlike the broilers, which are locked. But I have never at one time had a problem with any of my chicken. Agrovets have tried to talk us out of administering our chicken with aloe vera, but we know they just want us to go back to buying drugs from their stores,” said Watiri, another poultry farmer who bought her chicken from the government's Women Enterprise Fund.
Each day, the farmers pound an aloe vera leaf and add it to the chickens' water basin. Watiri grows the aloe vera behind her chicken house. All aloe types, except aloe vera, belong to the group of protected plants because they are endangered. For this reason, people are prohibited from harvesting aloe plants growing in the wild, so they prefer to plant them in their shambas to use them for medicinal purposes.
Avian coccidiosis is the most costly and wide-spread parasitic disease in the poultry industry, and has been mainly controlled by the use of chemotherapeutic agents. But the disease is particularly hard to contain once there is an outbreak, because of the emergence of drug-resistant strains.
All species of bird of all ages are also susceptible to Newcastle, which is an acute to chronic condition and one of the most common poultry respiratory diseases worldwide. The common symptoms include watery eyes and persistent coughing, and gasping. The disease affects egg production and quality with brown broiler eggs turning to white eggs. The country losses Sh10million a month in poultry death as a result of coccidiosis and Newcastle according to the Ministry of Livestock.
But scientists from the Samar State College in the Philippines found in a long term trial that when provided regularly with the juice of aloe secundiflora, chicken grew faster and added more weight compared to chickens whose water was not enriched with aloe juice.
“This interesting and collaborative research now means that we will develop a simple over the counter drug that will be affordable to chicken farmers with aloe vera juice as the active ingredient but specifically meant for chicken. Newcastle and coccidiosis diseases are every farmer's nightmare, and at a time when we are encouraging more farmers to go into free range chicken due to their high market value, for both meat and egg, we need to come in with even more incentives for these farmers,” said Zeblon Omondi, a scientist involved in the study.
Written by Bob Koigi for African Laughter
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