Lack of funds hampers red mite breakthrough

New research into controlling red mites – that can lead to anaemia, decreased egg production and inferior shell quality – suggests altering lighting patterns in poultry housing may have a sizeable impact on populations.

But further trials are likely to be hampered by low profitability in the sector and imposition of EU welfare rules, according to a report in Vet Record (3 June) by researchers from the Universities of Bristol and KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa.

Although red mite populations within groups of 25 commercially reared 16-week-old poults were lowest where each 24 hours was divided into four periods of 3.5hr of light followed by 2.5hr of darkness, low profits among commercial units mean producer funding for further trial work is lacking.

Researchers also highlight that some regimes used in trials breach current EU welfare regulations demanding a minimum of eight hours of uninterrupted darkness and, as a result, a Home Office licence would be needed for further trial work.

The initial study – funded by British Egg Marketing Board Research & Education Trust – suggested that a short lighting cycle did not allow red mites sufficient time to emerge from crevices in poultry housing and equipment to feed off poultry before light was restored and the risk of being seen and eaten by the birds increased.