Mysterious Killer in Panbang

Mysterious Killer in Panbang

More than 3000 poultry birds have died in farms of Panbang

Poultry farmers of Panbang, Zhemgang are facing huge economic losses after a strain of an undiagnosed bird-flu virus hit their birds. The virus has already claimed lives of hundreds of birds set for hatching, according to poultry farm owners. Between September 2022 to January 2023, the three layer farms under the Dungkhag lost about 3,500 birds.  

According to those in the business, the pullets were bought from KK Farm, Sarpang, in August 2022. The layer farmers were supported through Big Ticket Initiative (BTI) in procuring birds where they only have to bear the cost of the feed. CGI sheets and cement were provided by BTI while sand, gravel and woods were procured by farmers themselves for the construction of farm houses.

The owners have spent a huge amount on feeding, which they say is a major loss. “No hatching industry in Panbang has had to contend with such a huge loss at one time,” the layer farmers says.

The livestock department under Panbang YOUTH Cooperative (PYC) procured 1,500 pullets. The Cooperative now is left with only about 300 hens, barely producing about 280 egg production. From September, 2022 to January, 2023, PYC had witnessed 12-13 birds die daily on average. The farm has the capacity to raise about 3,000 chickens. 1,500 pullets are scheduled to be procured later.

The founder of PYC, Leki Chedup said that the farm suffered huge losses from feeding the birds. With not much laying, farmers spend Nu 2,200 per 50 kg feed. It is from Karma Feeds. PYC has incurred a loss of Nu 0.4 million approximately.

From the 1,500 pullets procured, Jala Enterprise is left only with about 200 chickens. The Enterprise had availed Nu 0.7 million loan to run the farm out of which Nu 0.5 was spent on feed.

Gadeen Poultry Farm at Kulamti, Phangkhar under Panbang Dungkhag bought 1,222 pullets from Sarpang out of which 265 pullets were bought personally. Now the farm is left with 143 birds.

The farm buys feed from Krishna Agent, Gelephu and spends about Nu 0.23 million.

Farmers said that they reported the case to the dzongkhag livestock section through the gewog livestock sector.

Initially, the farmers doubted that the death could have been from a flu originating as a supplier at Sarpang might not have vaccinated the birds.

However, the supplier had informed that the pullets were vaccinated and officials pointed out that the mortality was a failure of management.

Officiating dzongkhag livestock officer, Zhemgang, Ugyen Lhendup said that the livestock sector is well aware of the problem that occurred in three layer farms under the Dungkhag. The sector had received the information on November 12, 2022 and immediately a team of technical personnel lead by a veterinary doctor was deployed for the investigation with effect from 13- 16 December 2022.

To rule out the disease, rapid tests on Avain Influenza Virus (AIV) and Infectious Buras Disease (IBD) were conducted which tested negative. Investigations found that there was a slight band appearance in Newcastal Disease (NCD) rapid test while for the Merrak disease, the tests were negative.  

Since all the results were negative during the rapid tests, the officiating dzongkhag livestock officer said that they have ruled out the doubts of disease outbreak in the farm.

The sample was sent to the National Centre for Animal Health (NCAH), Serbithang in Thimphu for further confirmation and the result had no change. Thus, it was concluded that there is no disease outbreak.

The founders of PYC, Leki Chedup and Jala Enterprise, Rinchen Norbu denied that the cause of the death was management weakness. “There would not be death from all farms at the same time,” they said.

The owner of Gadeen Poultry Farm, Singye expressed the same. “It is not a management problem, but it could be a new disease,” he said.

At the time of supplying, owner of KK Farm, Sarpang, P.N. Neopany said that he supplied vaccinated birds. “There was neither any outbreak nor any mortality in my farm,” he said, adding that concerned authorities also issued permits to sell pullets.

Meanwhile, the officiating dzongkhag livestock officer said that the team recommended the owners to improve the overall management of the farms. The team had also recommended to deworm the birds and supplement them with minerals and vitamins.

The owners of poultry farms are unsatisfied as the investigations have not been able to find out why the birds had died, while they suffered financial loss on feed excluding the operational costs. “We are concerned about the country’s economic growth, if farm businesses suffer huge losses like this,” the farmers said. The farmers are also unaware if they will be compensated.

Sangay Rabten from Thimphu