News: Counting their chickens
Story by Jamie Vernon
MAHMUDIYAH, Iraq – The U.S. State Department Embedded Provincial Reconstruction Team participated in a project inoculating and delivering chickens to the Mahmudiyah Poultry Association Feb. 27.
Charles Russell, an agricultural advisor for the EPRT traveled to the Poultry Agkardi Hatchery here to assist local Iraqi farmer spray 22,000 chicks—each of them 21-days-old—with a vaccine to protect them from Gumboro disease. Gumboro disease (also known as infectious bursal disease) destroys a chicken's immune system, leaving it susceptible to infections much like AIDS does in humans. Untreated, the highly contagious disease can lead to high mortality rates among chickens.
The chicks were taken from the hatchery to the Mahmudiyah Poultry Association where they will be raised for 40 days, long enough for them to grow to a weight of at least 2 kilograms. At that weight, they will be ready to be sold to local markets and the Iraqi populace as poultry.
Prior to the program, insufficient breeding, care and condition of the chicks, it would take 60 days. Many times the chickens would only weigh 1.7-1.80 kilograms, not enough to be sold as poultry.
This EPRT project helped reduce the amount of time needed to raise the chicks, consequently cuting back on feed costs, as well as the fuel used for the hatchery's heaters.
"The profit is in the management. When the feed is not good, and the breed of chicks is not good, the [outcome] is not good," said Sheik Labid Khalid, owner of the coops and a board of director member for the Mahmudiyah Poultry Association.
Expensive fuel costs compromised the amount of warmth the chicks received for successful survival and growth. This project created the funds necessary to buy the fuel needed to provide proper heat for the hatchery's incubators and coops.
"It is very important to control and provide the right temperature for the chicks and this makes it difficult," said Sheik Labid.
In the past, the poultry association did not have healthy chickens to sell. The farmers of Mahmudiyah could not rely on having enough poultry as their source of income. The EPRT funded this program to assist the Mahmudiyah Poultry Association to create better management. This, in turn, helps provide job stability for the Iraqi people, and supports their economy.
"This project, established with U.S. assistance, is going in a smooth way. This is a wonderful project that creates a lot of jobs for many different tribes and helps the economy in the Mahmudiyah area. The money that went to cater to this project went to the right place," said Mr. Shakeir, owner of the Poultry Agkardi Hatchery and a member of the board of directors for the Mahmudiyah Poultry Association.
More vaccines will be given to the chicks in the coming weeks to help further prevent Gumboro and other diseases related to reduced egg production.