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Poultry farmer response to disease outbreaks in smallholder farming systems

Abstract

Avian influenza outbreaks have been occurring on smallholder poultry farms in Asia for two decades. Farmer responses to these outbreaks can slow down or accelerate virus transmission. We used a longitudinal survey of 53 small-scale chicken farms in southern Vietnam to investigate the impact of outbreaks with disease-induced mortality on harvest rate, vaccination, and disinfection behaviors. We found that in small broiler flocks (≤16 birds/flock) the estimated probability of harvest was 56% higher when an outbreak occurred, and 214% higher if an outbreak with sudden deaths occurred in the same month. Vaccination and disinfection were strongly positively correlated with flock size and farm size, respectively. Small-scale farmers – the overwhelming majority of poultry producers in low-income countries – tend to rely on rapid sale of birds to mitigate losses from diseases. As depopulated birds are sent to markets or trading networks, this reactive behavior has the potential to enhance onward transmission.

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