Lhakpa Quendren

Sarpang—With the mercury hitting 35°C for the last few days, poultry farmers in Sarpang have been affected the worst with the heat killing chickens.

Yesterday evening, Laxuman Gomden in Norbugang, Shompangkha, was seen disposing of heat-stressed chickens (dead) from his poultry farm. The heat had killed a dozen layer chickens on his farm. At least 188 layer chickens died over the past five days, with the highest number of deaths, 120 chickens, occurring on May 25.

His farm is seeing a growing number of bird fatalities, adding extra strain to his flock of 5,000 layer chickens across four farms. The biggest farm, receiving direct heat, is hit the hardest, while some parts of the other farms are protected by trees.

“If the extreme heat continues for a few more days, I am worried that half of my chickens will die,” Laxuman Gomden said, adding that the mortality rate is much higher this year compared to the 55 chickens that died last year.

“The birds are suffering just as they begin to lay eggs,” he added.

Poultry farmers said it is a significant setback as they are still recovering from losses caused by feed contamination in 2021. The existing flock of layer chickens was restocked after the National Poultry Development Centre (NPDC) in Sarpang resumed its chick distribution last year following the pandemic.

“We are already at a loss, and now the heat is adding another burden to the farms. We did not report it anywhere, thinking that no help would come,” said Santosh Subba in Shompangkha, who reported losing at least 15 chickens in four days.

livestock officials advised farmers to protect poultry farms with plywood ceiling to shade the layer chickens, but farmers said it is easier said than done. “Having enough water for sprinklers would minimise the death toll,” said Santosh.

While some poultry farmers have set up water sprinklers on their CIG sheet-roofed farms, the scarcity of water makes continuous operation challenging. Others use fans, which, according to them, are also ineffective.

The heat stress also resulted in low egg production, according to the farmers. “My egg production has dropped from nine cartons  a day to seven,” said Santosh Subba.

The current price is Nu 1,700 per carton or Nu 270 per tray, while it is being sold at Nu 320 per tray in the market. The feed price remains at Nu 2,015 per bag.

Poultry farmers also allege that illegal egg imports have led to a decrease in the prices of local eggs. However, they say that the price has recently increased slightly due to stringent surveillance by the Bhutan Food and Drug Authority at the border check-posts following reports of flu outbreaks in the country.

Meanwhile, the National Centre for Hydrology and Meteorology (NCHM) forecast a challenging monsoon season between June and September this year, with slightly above-normal temperatures and rainfall.