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More Outreach Wanted After Bird Deaths

Bird farmers in Prey Veng province want Cambodian agricultural officials to provide medicine and training to help prevent disease outbreaks, following a high number of poultry deaths from a common disease in recent weeks.

“You can see, before this chicken coop had some chickens in it, but now my chicken coop is empty,” Sam An, 65, from Prey Klar village in Prey Veng district, said on a recent afternoon. “Twenty-five chickens died.”

He was unsure of the reason, but he suspected Newcastle disease, a common viral illness in domestic poultry.

“If I had the Newcastle disease vaccine before, maybe I could have prevented deaths of my chickens,” he said.

He asked that government officials provide poultry vaccines and other medicine and set up programs to promote health safety for bird farmers.

Villagers say the spread of Newcastle disease is just one example of the troubles they face, and they would also like to learn more about bird flu. Many remained unsure why their poultry had died, underscoring the challenge to health and animal officials in spreading information about disease.

Preap Bun, who has been raising ducks for three years in Prey Kandeang, in the province’s Prey Veng district, said he lost 90 ducks out of 700 in three days between Jan. 31 and Feb. 2. He did not know why.

Nor did Try Lay Srung, 42, who also raises ducks, in Prey Sithun, Peam Chor district, and lost 50 ducks out of 650 in her flock. The ducks were imported from Skuon district, Kampong Cham province, she said, and she suspected they were killed either by Newcastle disease or eating grain toxic with insecticide.

“I never received any training from agricultural experts to prevent the death of the ducks,” she said.

Saing Saron, head of the provincial animal production department of the Ministry of Agriculture, said the birds had died from Newcastle disease in a spell of hot weather.

“I also have an agency for animal production to open a training course for farmers, but it is very difficult to invite them for training,” he said.

Many people don’t believe they need to take a course because they are not mass-producing poultry for export, but are raising the birds for domestic consumption, he said.

Keo Phal, director of the national animal production department in the Ministry of Agriculture, said most villagers raise their birds outside of coops or pens, allowing them to roam free in the villages, making the spread of diseases harder to control.