Challenges and solutions in coping with poultry red mite

Delegates at the International Egg Commission’s conference in Bruges were given an update on the spread of poultry red mite, the ongoing scientific work and solutions to controlling outbreaks.

Red mite is increasingly becoming one of the most substantial issues facing egg producers and is now prevalent across much of the globe.

Presenting an overview, Farhad Mozafar, of Lohmann Tierzucht, told delegates that the night bloodsucking mite had first been documented back in 1778 and was now widespread across Europe, the Middle East and the Far East. Only North America is currently free from mite.

Mr Mozafar said the mite, which thrives in high temperatures and high humidity and has a life cycle of between 7-17 days, spreads easily on poultry farms through wild birds, insects, rearing units, rodents, poultry litter, pests and humans.

It led birds to become restless at night, caused skin and feather irritation, could lead to feather pecking and cannibalism and disturbed the egg function at night. In moderate to severe cases, it led to anaemia, weight loss and immune-suppression.

A colony of 5,000 red mites feeding on a bird could reduce its weight by 1g/day but this rose to 10g/day if there were 50,000 mites and 100g/day if there were 500,000 mites: “Very severe infestations led to death, less severe led to a higher feed conversation rate and a drop in egg production,” he said.

There was also scientific evidence that the mites can carry and pass on other diseases, including avian influenza.

Mites can also survive for very long periods without feeding: “They can survive without a single meal for a year or longer and can tolerate temperatures of up to 45°C and below -25°C.

Mr Mozafar said the mites were developing resistance to the acaricides pesticide and this resistance accelerated if the application was given incorrectly.

Professor Olivier Sparagano, associate pro vice-chancellor (research) at Coventry University, talked about the work of COREMI, which is improving current understanding and research for sustainable control of the poultry red mite. 

There are 28 countries involved in COREMI and Prof Sparagano said latest figures suggested the total annual cost of poultry med mite infestations in the European egg laying industry is estimated to be €231m and €3.2bn worldwide.

He urged the International Egg Commission to set up a working group on red mite, saying the growing resistance to Carbaryl and Permethrin based insecticides meant there were not many solutions available.

This was leading to products from the black market being used, as seen in the recent fraud case involving Fipronil.

Prof Sparagano said a multidisciplinary coordinated approach was needed to tackle the mite, particularly as more poultry keepers were facing skin rashes and disorders.

“We need to work with physicians who don’t understand the problem and its threat potential, entomology experts, dermatologists and vets.”

He said there had been positive drivers in the last five years include greater communication and education of the issue and a few vaccine candidates are emerging with good laboratory results. But this was tempered by the number of products disappearing from the market not being compensated by new ones and more human health issues.

Dr Monique Nel, researcher at Wageningen University, Netherlands, said a sustainable solution through integrated pest management was the way forward in tackling the mite.

Dr Nel warned that by not dealinig with red mite poultry producers faced a raft of other diseases, including salmonella.

“Solely using chemicals is a dead-end solution. You can’t just spray and think the outbreak is over. It is only sustainable as part of an integrated pest management policy, which requires constant effort, time, money and attention.”

She advocated a prevent and suppress policy, stressing the importance of removing soft and hard manure and cleaning the poultry house. It was vital to cover conveyor belts, aeration pipes, air mixing boxes and other pieces of equipment. Other suppressive measures included the use of liquid silicon or green soap and predators.

Farmers need to take care in monitoring infestations of the mite so that they knew when to use the best treatment. An automated mite monitor might be the answer or a visual manual scoring system or traps. Deciding when the mites had reached a threshold was tricky, she admitted, adding that she would like to see more product authorisations and further research in this area.|worldpoultry|2017-09-13|Challenges_and_solutions_in_coping_with_poultry_red_mite

AI, Fipronil and welfare issues dominate IEC reviews

Threats posed by avian influenza, the recent Fipronil scandal and ongoing animal welfare issues were the three key challenges consistently raised during the annual International Egg Commission country reviews.

There was less consensus over the opportunities, but clarity that eggs were an excellent source of protein, the free-range and barn sectors would steadily grow and that consumption levels would continue to rise over the next ten years.


Representatives from Belgium, Holland, Italy, the UK and the US all highlighted the recent fraud scandal involving Fipronil. The shortage of eggs in Belgium would lead to higher prices that many customers did not want to pay, while the UK has had to work hard to defend British eggs and Dutch farmers face ongoing legal challenges. The US felt the saga could be an opportunity in terms of export potential but also a challenge.

The ongoing spread of different strains of AI was the most significant challenge facing the German egg industry, which had concerns about the ongoing discussions with the European Commission over the length of time free range birds could be housed indoors.

Mark Williams, chief executive of the British Egg Industry Council, said he believes the H5N8 virus would return but scientists believed it would not have the same degree of intensity because of the reservoir of resistance in the wild bird population.

Welfare issues

Beak trimming was one of the welfare issues that is concerning farmers across Europe. While beak trimming was banned in Scandinavian countries in the 1970s and 1980s, Germany banned the practice at the beginning of the year and from September 2018 no eggs from hens with beaks trimmed will be sold by retailers.

This has a direct effect on Holland because of its huge export market to Germany and the Dutch face a ban in September 2018. Beak trimming is one of three welfare issues facing the French industry, along with caged eggs and male chick culling, and the UK is to write to the agriculture minister later this year providing an industry update on the issue.

The move away from caged systems was a key issue across the globe. Chad Gregory, president and CEO at United Egg Producers (US), said that 229 retail companies representing 223m layers had pledged to go cage free by 2025.

“It will cost millions of dollars to retrofit or build new facilities for egg farms and it is fairly impossible to do this in seven years. I am not sure where the market will go in the next five, ten, 15 years.”

Michael Guthrie, founding partner of Mainland Poultry Limited, New Zealand, expected some disruption in the market over the next 18 months as producers switched from cage production in the run up to the 2022 ban.

In Columbia, animal welfare groups are demanding cage-free eggs, while former IEC chair Cesar de Anda said the Mexican industry knew that cage-free systems were coming. Mexico has all of its commercial birds in caged systems.

Bird flu

Other nations had specific issues. China’s overcapacity issues remain and this has not been helped by different strains of bird flu that led earlier this year to plunging prices. China consistently has problems with antibiotic misuse but stronger enforcement by egg inspectors will in time drive out uncompetitive and low welfare farms. Farms with a million layers are emerging nationwide and foreign capital is attracted to the world’s biggest egg market.

Jose Eduardo dos Santos, Brazilian IEC ambassador, said Brazil was looking to increase its exports, while Colombia faces ongoing infrastructure problems, which is stopping the industry becoming more competitive, along with growing urbanisation restricting the growth of egg production and the ongoing FARC conflict.

Both Mexico and Canada raised the NAFTA trade talks – the latest round scheduled for later this month - as an issue for the sector. Mr de Anda said Mexico needed to export eggs and poultry. “They could be reared and produced in the US, processed in Mexico and then exported to the rest of the world.” Meanwhile, Canada is paying close attention to the forthcoming Ottawa discussions.

Turkey said its main challenge was sustaining its export to the war-ravaged nations of Iraq and Syria and it also faced issues meeting EU requirements as part of its accession process. The small nature of the industry was set to change radically in the years to come, and Turkey expects the Middle East to be a lucrative market once peace has returned to the region.

Looking ahead to the next ten years: Denmark expects to see a rise in both its value-added products and overall production, Columbia believes it will be one of the top 15 global egg producers and Mexico, which has a staggering egg consumption of 371 per capita per year, believes it will export egg products and shell eggs to the rest of the globe.|worldpoultry|2017-09-13|AI,_Fipronil_and_welfare_issues_dominate_IEC_reviews