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Season Update on Game Bird Diseases

St Davids 110 x 80

England and Wales

Ben South BVetMed MRCVS, St David's Game Bird Services

As the partridge season gets into full swing, there have been several areas where we have seen late breakouts of motile protozoal disease. Early season population density in areas of cover has led to poaching of the ground around critical areas such as feeders and drinkers. With the additional stress from shooting and predation, weaker birds will see a disruption in gut flora and the breakout of bacterial enteritis with motile protozoa involved. On the ground we are seeing small, listless birds. Deaths have occurred, although this is usually linked with a concurrent dehydration and ketosis. Early detection and treatment has been successful.

Release pens are now full and early poults are roaming. So far, the outbreaks of Mycoplasma have been minimal and controlled. It is important to notify your vet of any respiratory signs seen in the birds, such as ocular or nasal discharge, so we can identify MG or other respiratory diseases early and treat. Worms will continue to be a problem in mild, wet weather as life cycles of ascarids, for instance, decrease. Once birds are released and on wheat, and where treatment isn't possible, operating a sensible stocking density and avoiding having pens in particularly wet areas reduces this risk

Quaterly Updates 17-11 F1

Fig 1 Foamy eye discharge due to Mycoplasma gallisepticum infection

We must stay vigilant for high numbers of unexplained deaths in game birds, water fowl and other wild birds this winter. The threat to Avian Influenza is currently moderate, but expect this to become high as migrant birds arrive. Notify your vet or local APHA office if you suspect anything.


Matthew Balfour BVM&S MRCVS, St David's Game Bird Services

The game season in Scotland started quietly in veterinary terms, helped by the relatively warm dry weather. The Scottish team have been encouraging the use of probiotics and electrolytes in-water as a starter for chicks and, on the whole, game rearers who were delivered good quality chicks found this approach very beneficial in keeping the chicks health up. The fact that we are using more probiotics and less antibiotics allows the chick to build up a healthy gut flora which should give better protection against intestinal pathogens.

As the season progressed, the weather deteriorated and soon we were seeing cases of coccidiosis, shortly followed by hexamita. Cases of hexamita continued late into the season and were a particular issue this year in release pens. In many cases, this made treatment difficult and highlighted the benefits of good release pen design; those with a good water system and without standing/running water present were much better equipped to medicate flocks.

Quarterly Updates 17-11 F2

Fig 2 10 week old pheasant poult showing distention of the caeca and small intestines. The bird is suffering from bacterial enteritis coupled with a protozoal infection of hexamita.

Another issue which was apparent late into the season was coccidiosis in partridges. This was often due to a build-up of coccidia on site towards the end of the season. On sites where this is an issue, it is advisable to treat routinely with an anti-coccidial every three weeks. Once birds are severely affected, treatment can be difficult as sick birds are often unwilling to drink and therefore do not receive the full dose of medication.

There have also been some late cases of intestinal worms causing ill thrift and deaths and these have occurred when adequate veterinary advice on dosing and treatment of worm has not been sought.