Considering the lockdown of the country at the early stage, when veterinarian needs and animal feed production, supply and distribution chains may be affected and toll milling services unavailable, fish and livestock farmers, especially the medium to large-scale ones, may have to be proactive by taking preparatory steps to sustain farm management, feeds, vaccination programmes, other essentials for animal welfare/productivity and sale of produce.
Disruptions to supplies of animal care materials, feeds or feed ingredients could have negative impacts on growth and production of chickens, eggs, beef, pork and sheep/goat. Also, breeding stocks may be affected in terms of productivity, sale and profitability, which, in turn, may affect supply of day-old chicks to poultry farmers.
Therefore, professionals in animal science and veterinary practices have suggested the following ways through which farmers could navigate through the lockdown period in Nigeria.
Stockpiling feeds, feed ingredients/other vet needs
Professionals have suggested stockpiling of feeds and other vet needs that can last for two weeks. Animal feeds are the second most important need after water in aquaculture, livestock and poultry production. And because water is taken for granted in most situations, feeds become the most crucial factor in preparing for emergencies. Hence, farmers are advised to make provision for feeds that can last the farm for a minimum of 14 to 20 days or more.
A farm manager at Animal Care, Mr Kunle Ogunleke, said, “The preparation is to stock feeds, improve hygiene and biosecurity of farms.”
Ogunleke added that “for farmers that are rearing birds below 16 weeks old, they should get all necessary vaccines for the next two-three weeks and get biosecurity products (like polidine and V-ox), liver tonic on the farm.”
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Regional Sales Manager of Chikum Feeds, Mr Peace Obabhu, said although poultry products, feeds and livestock would be allowed for movement, farmers and vendors should observe the preventives measures as recommended by the health professionals and the World Health Organisation (WHO). He also suggested stockpiling of feeds for large to medium-sized farmers who could probably afford such.
Properly prepared feeds, he added, could last for three months, making it easier for farmers to store feeds in preparation for a national lockdown.
Transportation arrangements/sale managements
Managers also suggest adequate preparation for movement of farm produce, especially eggs and vegetables, to strategic locations where they are highly needed. Transportation could become difficult if farms do not make personal arrangement for vehicles, drivers and other logistics because outsourced transporters could not be relied on in such a period of lockdown.
Temporary sales outlets and online platforms could also be explored by farmers with the use of dispatch riders, delivery vans and other means of delivery to consumers while protecting themselves.
A former provost of the Federal College of Animal Health and Production Technology, Ibadan, Dr Ademola Raji, said because fish, poultry and livestock are part of food, which is categorised as essential, they should be allowed to be delivered without any form of restriction.
He said feeds, veterinary medicines and other livestock inputs should also be distributed without hindrance.
He, however, warned farm owners and workers to observe biosecurity and personal hygiene to avoid spread of COVID-19 and other zoonotic diseases.
Temporary reduction of staff on fish farms
Prof. Emmanuel Ajani, Dean, Faculty of Renewable Natural Resources, University of Ibadan, while advising fish farmers on what to do during a period of restricted movement and social interaction, opined that “there is unpleasant economic scenario of this lockdown on the fish farmer.”
He, however, advised that that the safety of their lives should be the first priority, saying, “Farmers should be thinking of how to minimise possible economic losses as a result of the lockdown. The first step is to keep the activity on the farm very low by focusing only on essential operations such as feeding and daily farm maintenance activity.”
Prof. Ajani also suggested reduction of the number of workers to a minimum of five or 10 at most based on the size and importance of their operational units.
“Don’t take new stock now until after the lockdown. If there are products that are ready for marketing, please do contact marketing by linking through either online or phone your well-known buyers. Arrange time for products collection without crowding.
“Above all, create hand-washing points on your farms with alcohol-based hand sanitiser. Always apply the principle of social distancing. Please, get enough feeds, drugs and other essential materials in stock during this period,” he advised farmers.