When mite levels increase, as they do in the summer months, it is essential to treat quickly with a product that is proven and licensed to kill them, warns Maureen Prendergast, Poultry Technical Manager at MSD Animal Health.
She goes on: “Whether you are a commercial producer or have a small backyard flock, prompt and effective treatment reduces the pain and distress caused to your hens.”
Poultry red mites live and rapidly breed within the hen house, emerging at night to crawl onto and suck blood from the birds.
In cool conditions they can lie dormant for up to nine months, but once the temperature reaches between 15-25°C, their lifecycle can be as short as seven to 10 days.
This means that during the warm summer months poultry-keepers see a sudden explosion in numbers because just one female mite is able to produce 2,000 more mites in a month.
Whilst small numbers of mites may be tolerated by laying hens, heavy infestations result in reduced productivity due to anaemia, decreased quality and quantity of eggs produced, reduced growth in younger birds and reduced immunity leading to the presence of other diseases.
Mites are also known to carry a multitude of viral and bacterial pathogens that
can be transmitted to both birds and humans, including E.coli, Salmonella and Listeria.
“Recent years have seen a reduction in the products available due to the enforcement of the EU directive on Biocidal Product Regulation 528/2012 which controls poultry disinfectants and mite powders,” explains Maureen.
“There is also a greater awareness about safety for birds and humans and of the issue of residues in eggs and poultry meat.
“Thankfully there is a medicinally licensed product whose safety has been proven in both layers and breeders.”
Exzolt, a systemic treatment containing fluralaner, has been available for the control of poultry red mite infestations since 2017, with over seven million hens treated on the island of Ireland.
Treatment consists of two applications (via the drinking water), seven days apart, in order to target all stages of the life cycle. The egg withdrawal period is zero days.
Earlier this year Exzolt became the first veterinary product centrally registered in the EU to include animal welfare improvement in its licence.
“Studies in commercial layer farms demonstrated that the elimination of poultry red mite from infested hens following treatment with Exzolt significantly improved behavioural indicators of animal welfare,” said Maureen.
“These included the reduction of night-time activity, head scratching, head shaking and preening at night and during the daytime, as well as a reduction of blood corticosterone concentration.
“This confirms what we already knew – that red mites cause real distress to the birds and that welfare is improved by treatment with Exzolt.
“There is no need to let your birds suffer when there is an effective, licensed product that is so easy to administer and that has been proven to have no adverse effect on the hens or the safety of their eggs.”