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Season Update on Game Bird Diseases

St David's Game Bird Services

Suzy Ackerley BVM BVSc MRCVS and Ben South BVetMed MRCVS

We have heard general reports that birds have been flying well.

Early season bags have been filled well and many birds were holding up until the Christmas period. The latter part of the season has seen more displacement of birds, the cold North Easterly winds and increased disease pressures are not helping.

We have seen breakouts of Mycoplasma through pheasants, leading to high mortality.

Quaterly Updates 17-11 F1

Foamy eye discharge due to Mycoplasma gallisepticum infection

Mycoplasma is opportunistic in many ways and is often exacerbated and allowed to grow when birds are already experiencing immunosuppression. Where there have been issues, the primary pathology has been worms, this then allows the opportunistic infection with Mycoplasma. We have had many areas suffering with gastrointestinal worm burdens right through into January.


Ascarid worms in the small intestine

Birds that have a high worm burden or parasites will be immunosuppressed; they will not fly well, lose weight and eventually die or be predated. It is important to speak to your vet to discuss treatment options but it is vital that you take into account meat withdrawal periods if you are selling your game for human consumption.

We are still seeing plenty of partridge around on the ground that are being fed through to January, by keeping the pellets available for these birds you can encourage them to hold well. February may bring with it new challenges and colder weather and many large rearing sites will be already preparing for their laying stocks and cleaning equipment ready for rearing.

We are pleased to hear that keepers have already been planning for the season ahead and keeping in touch with our veterinary team, as well as organising the correct cleaning and disinfection programme for their equipment - using our 3D's cleaning protocol.


Do not let biosecurity be compromised at any stage on your rearing site or in your release pens. Letting your biosecurity guard down will lead to increased risks of disease transfer and substantial challenges for the newly hatched chicks. You must consider the following points for good biosecurity:



Cleaning and disinfecting equipment

  • Prepare for cleaning equipment in February and March.
  • Clean all houses, pens, drinkers, feeders, quad bikes and trucks.
  • Remember the 3 Ds:
    • Drench - power wash everything to remove organic material.
    • Allow to dry completely.
    • Detergent - use a powerful cleaner and degreaser.
    • Allow to dry completely.
    • Disinfectant - spray a disinfectant known to kill Cocci and viruses.
  • Clean water systems thoroughly - 24 hours with a hydrogen peroxide based clean to remove organic biofilm and algae.
  • Replace all 5mm pipe as it's impossible to clean.

Foot dips

  • Wellies are good at spreading disease across pens and sites.
  • Ensure foot dips are covered and regularly changed.
  • Foot dips should be available for all transitions between different areas.
  • Encourage everyone to use them.



  • Visitors must sign in when accessing your sites.
  • They are an unknown quantity when it comes to disease contamination.
  • Avoid visitors entering live bird areas unless wearing suitable coveralls.


  • Ensure that vehicles are kept clean.
  • Provide a portable sprayer to disinfect wheels before driving onto the rearing sites.
  • Avoid using the same vehicles in release pens and on rearing fields.



Contact St David's Game Bird Services for your correct cleaning protocol

For those of you breeding your own chicks now is the time to discuss with your vet any vaccinations you may require for breeding stock.