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Boosting Indonesian Poultry Farmers’ Profits AMID Avian Influenza

As Veterinary Services Officers Reinforced Building Blocks, Poultry Farmers Restored Livelihoods

“Farmers cannot do this by themselves – they need assistance from the government.”

Imagine being a poultry farmer, then one day you suffer huge losses as you have to prematurely kill 11,000 of your chickens. Bambang Sutrisno, a poultry farmer in Semarang district, Central Java, lived this experience when the highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) virus attacked his farm in August 2003.

“I was crying when I culled my chickens… how did this happen?” Bambang recalled. “Every time the chickens are infected by a disease, we feel like we are being robbed by micro-organisms that we cannot even see,” he added.   

The big storm did not hit Bambang once. In 2009, he cried for the second time, as HPAI struck again. Although some of his layer hens survived –thanks to proper vaccination, their egg production dropped by nearly 50%. The poultry population in his farm also dropped to around 20,000 from 60,000 chickens. 

Bambang was not alone. Since the first detection of HPAI virus in Indonesia in 2003, the disease has caused the deaths of millions of poultry in 32 of the country’s 34 provinces, disrupting the livelihoods of large numbers of people dependent on poultry-keeping. Moreover, since 2005, Indonesia has been one of the global epicenters for human H5N1 avian influenza infections. 

This brought the FAO Emergency Centre for Transboundary Animal Diseases (ECTAD) to Indonesia in 2006. With funding from USAID, and other international partners FAO ECTAD has been working closely with the Ministry of Agriculture and local government livestock services across the country to enhance their capacity and ability to sustainably control HPAI. In the case of HPAI control in commercial poultry farms, FAO ECTAD has, since 2011, established the Commercial Poultry Veterinary Services (Pelayanan Veteriner Unggas Komersial/PVUK) programme. The programme has successfully trained 143 animal health officers from 50 districts in 12 provinces in Indonesia, concentrating on areas with large commercial poultry populations.

Focusing on improved biosecurity, vaccination practices and farm management, the PVUK officers provided technical assistance to 8,574 farmers through farm visits, disease surveillance and disease control training. Farmers are encouraged to make simple changes in their farm biosecurity, vaccination practices and farm management that fit their own capabilities.  

The PVUK programme was what changed Bambang’s life, who actually quitted the poultry business for a while after the AI attack in 2009. 

“Finally, I met with FAO and the PVUK officers in Semarang district, and started implementing strict rules of 3-zone biosecurity by dividing my farm into 3 zones, namely the red zone or the dirty area, the yellow zone or buffer area, and the green zone or clean area,” he said. “The PVUK officers work whole-heartedly to assist us… we also welcomed them openly, with a new paradigm, in accepting their suggestions to make on-farm changes and improvements.”

When AI returned at the end of 2015, many farms in Bambang’s area were infected. Luckily for him, his hens’ egg production remained stable, and even exceeded the production standard of 55 kilos of eggs per 1,000 hens. 

“Now we are achieving 60 kilos per 1,000 hens,” he said, happily. 

Sharing similar positive experience of the PVUK programme is Zarkasi from South Lampung district. He revealed that after performing simple routine cleaning of feeders and drinkers every day, his chickens have better protection against respiratory illnesses. In addition, the cleaning routine has ensured that the poultry feed is all consumed by the hens, does not harden and grow fungus.

Take an example of a shed of 3,000 layer hens with 10 feeders. If the daily allocation of 200 grams of feed hardens or grows fungus, there would be 2 kilos of feed that cannot be consumed by the chickens.

“Currently, the price of 1 kilo of layer feed is 5,000 Rupiah, which means that I would lose 10,000 Rupiah every day. What will happen then in 10 days, 100 days or one year? I will lose a lot of money, and if I have three layer sheds with the same bad conditions, my losses will be tripled,” Zarkasi explained. The PVUK programme, he added, “is really helpful for farmers and it teaches us to pay close attention to simple things like cleaning and disinfection, yet providing huge benefits.”

Zarkasi and Bambang are among 450 farmers who have implemented recommendations from the PVUK programme in the past five years. Strengthening the capacity of government veterinary service officers through the PVUK programme has built trust between the government and the private poultry sector, including poultry farmers, poultry associations and the commercial industry. Eradicating HPAI from Indonesia is one thing, but the PVUK programme has also proven that it can help commercial poultry farmers to improve their productivity and boost their profitability.

As Bambang put it, “farmers cannot do this by themselves – they need assistance from the government.”

Published: June, 2016
Project: Strengthening National Capacity to Prevent and Control Emerging and Re-Emerging Pandemic Threats Including Influenza A in Indonesia (EPT-2) (OSRO/INS/501/USA)