Though the raising of helmeted guinea fowl (Numida meleagris) is an important part of rural farming in West-Africa, the death rate of keets within the first two months of life reaches values higher than 50%. The aim of this study conducted in North East Benin (Borgou department) was (i) to correlate the farming systems to keet morbidity and mortality rates; and (ii) to identify non-biological and biological factors responsible for keet deaths. The scavenging farming system is the basis of guinea-fowl breeding with overnight housing in overcrowded coops and “natural” feeding/watering conditions. This farming system is therefore understandably predisposed to the onset and spread of microbial and parasitic diseases, but the mortality rate (ca. 70%) was also influenced by the monthly rainfall and the circadian rhythm of temperature. None of the clinical signs or organ lesions at necropsy was specific to any microbial or parasitic disease. Accordingly, with the exception of salmonellae, the isolated bacteria represented post-mortem invaders and/or secondary pathogens and the helminth species identified were of low pathogenicity. In conclusion, the practice of guinea fowl breeding within the scavenging system will only be successful after improvement of hygienic parameters, such as housing, crowding, feeding, and watering conditions.
Key words: Guinea fowl, scavenging system, morbidity, mortality, bacteria, parasites, Benin.
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