Livestock Research for Rural Development 29 (9) 2017 Guide for preparation of papers LRRD Newsletter

Citation of this paper

Evaluation of farmer`s knowledge and application of guidelines on use of veterinary antibiotics in layer poultry production in Mukono district, central Uganda

Mathaus Mulumba Kigozi and James Higenyi1

Uganda Christian University, Faculty of Science and Technology, P O Box 4, Mukono, Uganda
1 Department of Animal Health, Ministry of Agriculture, Animal Industry and Fisheries, P O Box 153, Entebbe, Uganda


The misuse of antimicrobial agents in food producing animals is a single most factor undermining the safety and quality of food of animal origin, particularly in the developing countries, including Uganda. This malpractice is aggravated by low level of education, self-medication and unrestrictive access to antimicrobial agents. A cross-sectional survey was used to determine the level of farmer’s awareness and application of guidelines on prudent use of veterinary antibiotics in commercial layer poultry production. A total of 49 poultry farmers, seven drug dealers and three veterinary officers were interviewed using structured questionnaires. Most of the respondents engaged in commercial poultry production were male 59.2%, particularly the youth 44.8%. Majority of the respondents were moderately knowledgeable 65.2% about guideline on use of veterinary antibiotics. A relatively a smaller percentage of respondents 15.6% could correctly apply the guidelines at 80% level of application. A part from the veterinary antibiotics, traditional indigenous knowledge was practiced as alternative remedy for poultry diseases representing 22.5%. The results showed that the determinants of farmer’ decision to apply guidelines include; level of education, experience and sensitization. Inadequate trainings on prudent use of antimicrobial agents 36.7% and lack of publicity about available sources of knowledge 16.3% were identified as major challenges to farmer’ application of guideline. The paper concludes that given the existing moderate level of farmers’ knowledge about the guidelines on use of veterinary antibiotics, the most important way to improve application of guidelines and food safety management in farming systems is raising farmers’ awareness and understanding of instructions on use of veterinary antibiotics. In addition, promote research and innovations for alternative remedies that replace antibiotics while strengthening the regulation and supervision of supply and use of veterinary antibiotics by the stakeholders.

Keywords: analyse challenges, antimicrobial usage, awareness


The poultry industry is increasingly becoming an important sector as source of income, protein (eggs and chicken meat), and employment (FAO 2009a). Particularly, egg production is now among the most important sources of income in many households in developing countries including Uganda (FAO 2010). Apparently 44.4 million birds are reared in Uganda, and 20% of these are exotic breeds on commercial poultry production (UBOS 2014). Layer poultry production is on the growing trend which has led to increase in egg production. For instance 27,057 metric tons were produced in 2012 from 26,269 metric tons in 2009, representing an annual increase of 3.2% (Mugga 2009).

Despite the huge role of poultry industry in providing food and household incomes to many players, disease is a single most factor limiting production and productivity of the sub-sector (Msoffe et al 2009). The situation is made worse by lack of extension support and scarcity of qualified veterinarians. This has resulted into imprudent use of antimicrobial agents through self-medication without proper guidance from a veterinarian, use of fake drugs illegally acquired by farmers, wrong diagnosis and prescription and over dose in animals by farmers and unqualified service providers (Ilukor et al 2015).

The increasing use of antimicrobial agents in poultry production system for prevention and treatment of diseases, has led to a rise in level of drug residue in the food of animal origin and antimicrobial resistance in animals in the developing countries (Byarugaba 2011, 2004). A recent study in Uganda by Ilukor et al (2014) found out a wide spread drug misuse of veterinary antibiotics and free access veterinary antibiotics across the counter without any restrictions. As a result, poultry products especially eggs are more often contaminated with harmful antibiotic drug residues, which pause serious public health threats through infections from drug toxicity and resistant bacteria pathogens (Byarugaba et al 2011). Presently, poultry farmers ignore veterinary instructions and manufacturer’s recommendations during the use of antibiotics on farms (Sasanya et al 2005). To the best of our knowledge, there has been no empirical study examining the factors that influence farmers’ decisions on the application of veterinary instructions and manufacturer recommendations (guidelines). Much of the focus of the studies has been on understanding the usage of antibiotics in farming systems. However, no study has been done to examine farmers’ ability to understand instructions and correctly administer drugs. Therefore, this research evaluated the level of farmer’s knowledge and application of the guidelines on judicious use of veterinary antibiotics in layer poultry production and explores the alternative treatment methods used in commercial layer production.

Materials and methods

A cross sectional study was conducted from January 30th to February 11th-2017 in four administrative units in Mukono municipality, Mukono district on commercial layer poultry farms. The purpose was to evaluate farmer’s knowledge and application of guidelines on use of veterinary antibiotics in layer poultry production. Non-random and random sampling methods were used to collect data. The sample size was determined according to the formula for proportions by Yamane Taro, (1967:886). Poultry farmers were randomly selected, drug dealers conveniently selected and all available veterinary officers and or service providers were considered. The respondents were individually interviewed using valid structured questionnaires, and a total of 59 respondents (49 poultry farmers, seven drug dealers and three veterinary officers) were interviewed.

Data analysis

Transcribed data captured on structured questionnaires was entered into Excel sheet software for cleaning and generation of descriptive information. Later data was imported to STATA version 2010 where inferential analyses were performed using Pearson and Multivariate regression models.

Ethical clearance

The study was approved by the Department of Agricultural and Biological Sciences of Uganda Christian University ethical committee. Data was collected after consent made by respondents.


Field survey of respondents

A total of 59 respondents were interviewed and majority of whom were males 59%. The age bracket of the respondents ranged from 20 to 59 years with average age of 32 year. The youth aged 20-29 years were the majority of people engaged in commercial poultry business representing 44.9%. Farmers’ experience in commercial layer production varied from one year 26.5% to above nine years 16.5%. Every respondent had received formal education, though, at varying levels from ‘O’level to University. However, majority were diploma holder 34.7%. The respondents engaged in the selling of veterinary drugs were largely female 57%, most of whom are in age bracket between 30-39 years representing 71.4%. These were universally diploma holders in animal health with work experience above five years 43%. However, the animal health service provision to farmers was mainly a domain of male veterinary staff representing 66.7%.

Farmer’s Level of awareness about the guidelines on use of veterinary antibiotics

The study established that 65.2 % of poultry farmers had knowledge about the guidelines on use of veterinary drugs. This information was largely accessed knowledge through recommendations by veterinary drug sellers and trainings. The prescribed instructions given by animal health workers selling veterinary drug include; correct dosage, mixing, withdrawal periods, drug residues and antimicrobial resistance (Table1). Of these, correct dosage was more frequently recommended representing 77.6%.

Table 1. Level of farmers' awareness and access to knowledge about guidelines on use of veterinary antibiotics

Awareness and access to knowledge




Aware about guidelines



Not aware about guidelines



Access to knowledge through training

Have not received any training in the last 12 months



Have received at least 2 trainings in the last 12months



Guidelines/recommendation received from drug sellers

Correct dosage



Correct duration of therapy



Proper withdrawal period



Drug mixing



Correct route of administration



Antimicrobial resistance



Farmers’ access to knowledge through trainings was averaged 2 times in the last 12 months representing 61.2%. But overall ranking of farmers’ level of awareness was partially knowledgeable (Figure1).

Figure 1. Ranking farmers' level of awareness about the guidelines on use of veterinary antibiotics

In a same way, results from veterinary drug sellers indicated that the most frequently used channels of knowledge dissemination to farmers were; prescription (recommendations or instructions) when buying drugs and a combination of extension services and recommendations representing 42.8% (Table 2).

Table 2. Commonly used channels for knowledge dissemination by veterinary drug sellers

Channels of knowledge dissemination



Extension services only



Prescription when buying drugs only



Extension services and recommendations



Trainings, recommendation and extension services



Trainings only



Farmer’s application of guidelines on use of veterinary antibiotics in Mukono municipality

Respondents who had access to knowledge and are aware of the guidelines on use of veterinary antibiotics 65.2% universally used them. However, there were variations in the level of correct application of prescribed instructions/recommendation during the administration of the antibiotics on farms. About 15.6% of the respondents were rated better for correct application of instructions representing a level of 80% application while 43% of respondents representing the majority were rated poor for correct use of instructions at a 20% level of application (Figure2)

Figure 2. Farmers' level of application of guidelines on use of veterinary antibiotics

Furthermore, the findings established that the antibiotics are prevalently used in layer poultry production and the common classes of drugs were; Tetracycline 42.9%, Amprosulphur 14.2%, Anti-coccidials 6.1%, and Piperazine acetrate 4.1%. The predominant method of drug administration was water medication with 32.7%. Interestingly, farmers also practice indigenous knowledge as alternative remedies for poultry diseases representing 22.5% (Table 3).

Table 3. Treatment remedies for poultry diseases used by farmers

Treatment remedies



Local herbs



Aloe Vera



Red pepper and ash



Antibiotics only






Prediction of knowledge on prudent application of guidelines on use of veterinary antibiotics

Education, experience and sensitization had a positive relationship and significantly associated with method of drug administration (Table 4).

Table 4. Influence of knowledge on methods of drug administration





Number of obs = 49





Prob>F = 0.00

R-squared = 0.87

Adj R-squared = 0.86

Root MSE = 0.79









Method of drug administration


Std. Err.



















Sensitization on drug use







Sources of drugs














The knowledge factors such as experience, education and sensitization on drug use had a positive relationship and strongly associated with manufacturer’s instruction (Table 5).

Table 5. Influence of knowledge on use of manufacturers' instructions





Number of obs = 49





Prob>F = 0.00

R-squared = 0.77

Adj R-squared = 0.75

Root MSE = 0.87









Manufacturer instructions


Std. Err.



















Sensitization on drug use














Limitations to prudent use of guidelines for veterinary antibiotic

The main challenge hindering correct application of veterinary and manufacturer instructions during administration of veterinary drugs on their farms by poultry farmers was inadequate source of information especially trainings representing 36.7% as shown in Table 6. This was followed by lack of publicity about the available sources of knowledge at 16.3%.

Table 6. Limitations to prudent application of guidelines on use of veterinary antibiotics by respondents

Limitations to proper use of guidelines



Inadequate trainings on prudent use of antimicrobial agents



Lack of enough time to follow all guidelines



Limited qualified veterinary service providers



High cost of adhering withdrawal periods



High cost of hiring a qualified veterinarians



Restriction from business owners (bosses)



Absence of information about available sources of knowledge




To understand in-depth the farmer’s knowledge and application of guidelines on use of veterinary antibiotics in commercial poultry production in the central region of Uganda, a cross-sectional survey was conducted in four administrative units of Mukono Municipality in Mukono district. These administrative units include; Ggulu, Namumira-Anthony, Nsuube-Kauga, and Ntaawo.

The social demographic characteristics revealed that the commercial poultry production is somewhat a function of age and gender of respondents. For instance, the youth were observed to increasingly engage in commercial poultry production. Probably this could be explained by the high level of unemployment rate in Uganda, which has led to youth engagement in agricultural enterprises for economic gains. This is in conformity with the findings of Gueye (2009) which strongly affirms the importance of youth in agricultural development. Additionally, the study also recognized that the male gender has taken over the previously thought women activity for economic gains (Kajura and Bawali 2006). More interestingly, the venture is employing youth who are diploma and degree holders, outwardly energetic and low income earners. The results are in agreement with studies conducted in Nigeria by Adebayo (2005), which reported that youths are not only energetic with the ability to replace the older generation in agriculture, but are filled with new innovations and technological competence to carry out commercial and technological agriculture.

The present study has revealed that most of the respondents were moderately knowledgeable about the guidelines on use of veterinary antibiotics in commercial poultry production. This is very much so because poultry farmers mainly buy drugs from drug shops and treat the birds themselves. The study established that whenever they procure drugs, they are given instruction on use of veterinary drugs particularly on correct dosage for particular disease based on description of clinical signs. This was the main channel of knowledge dissemination to farmers. This is in agreement with study by Bashahum and Odoch (2015), who reported that majority of poultry farmers rely on paraveterinarians for prescription of drugs. The findings is also consistent with the results from studies conducted in Morogoro Tanzania by Nonga et al (2009), who reported that about 90% of broiler chicken farmers get advice from veterinary drug sellers for dosage prescription.

Regardless of level of farmers’ awareness, the study established that there was low application of guidelines on use of veterinary antibiotics during drug administration on farms. This is attributed to the fact that most of poultry farmers do self medications, and often time reliance on their own experience rather than taking the prescribed instruction by veterinary drug dealers as revealed by one of the veterinary officer interviewed. They typically seek for the services of service providers only if the birds are failing to respond to the treatments. This concurs with findings of Olatoye et al (2013), who reported 67.9% of respondents treating their own flocks. On contrary, Ilukor et al (2014) argues that low application of instructions is associated with inadequate veterinary service delivery and many of the drug shop being owned by people without qualification in veterinary surgery. As such they cannot competently advice farmers on the correct application of guidelines on use of veterinary drugs. Let alone the high cost of hiring veterinarians to advice farmers on use of veterinary guidelines during administration of drugs and long distances to the drug shops or veterinary stations (Sori 2004).

The present study also found out that antibiotic usage in commercial poultry production system is prevalent. This finding is consistent with the reports on usage of veterinary antibiotics in commercial chicken production by Bashahum and Odoch (2015), Sirdar et al (2012c), Turkson (2008) and Nonga et al (2009), who revealed 95%, 59%, 52% and 90% respectively. Furthermore, the results also concur with the findings of Sasanya et al (2005) that indicate 58% usage of antibiotics in commercial chicken production in Kampala. The findings of current study were also in agreement with the observation of Idowu et al (2010), who reported that 96.5% of respondent treated their birds with antimicrobial agents. By implication, prevalent use of antibiotics and low application of guidelines on use of veterinary antibiotics during administration on farms, partly contributes to the knowledge about the increasing levels of drug residues in poultry products (egg) as observed by Sasanya et al (2005) and Mugga (2009). This is strongly in agreement with studies by Doyle (2006), which reported that non-compliance with withdrawal periods during use of antimicrobial is the major cause of excess antimicrobial residues in foods of animal origin. In view of Uganda, this is of critical importance particularly when it is largely recognized that therapeutic veterinary services are a private good, and poorly regulated by government. Similar observations were reported in Sudan and Ghana (Sirdar et al 2012c).

Interestingly, the study noted that herbs and herbal medicines are increasingly applied as alternative remedies of poultry diseases. As such indigenous knowledge is one likely path for research and innovation to replace antibiotics. This is a very good practice likely to enhance the efforts of mitigating drug residues in animal food production systems. This finding is consistent with the study by Bukenya (2007), who reported that about 80% of poultry farmers in Central and Eastern Uganda use medicinal plants as alternative remedies for poultry diseases.

Knowledge is a key social factor that underpins proper management of agricultural production systems. The study established that various knowledge factors strongly influence the farmer’s choice of application of guidelines on use of veterinary antibiotics. Particularly, level of education, experience and sensitization about use of drugs were very important factors for a farmer to decide on the methods of administration of drugs and manufacturer’s instruction to apply. In the same way, sensitization on drug use was strongly associated with farmers’ decision to refer to apply manufacturer’s instruction during use of veterinary antibiotics on farm. This finding is consistent with the report by FAO (2009b), emphasizing the increased amount of chicken produced per year for respondents with post-secondary education. As such knowledge of respondents is a pre-requisite for proper management and use of veterinary drugs for increased production of poultry enterprise.

Although the study found out that inadequate training of poultry farmers was a major hindrance to prudent use of guidelines for use of veterinary antibiotic during administration on farms, absence of information about available knowledge sources was equally very important. Even then, the credibility of the knowledge sources is questionable. For instance, the study revealed that drug shops are significant sources of knowledge, yet are mainly manned by paraprofessionals who are diploma and certificate holders. Ilukor (2015), argue that these paraprofessionals are trained in general agriculture and as such ill-equipped to provide adequate information on veterinary medicine. As such over-reliance on the paraprofessional in drug business and extension service delivery in Uganda is associated with existing imprudent use of antimicrobial agents in animal food production systems (De Haan et al 2001). Furthermore, the high cost of adhering to withdrawal periods, and high cost of hiring a veterinary service provider also weighed in as pressing hurdles to correct application of guidelines on use of veterinary antibiotics. The finding is also in agreement with a report by Bashahun and Odoch (2015) that emphasized scarcity of veterinarians to perform clinical examinations on individual animals or administer or prescribe and supply medicines on a case by case basis in developing countries. Consequently, poultry farmers make decisions about antimicrobial use themselves, either based on previous experience, with guidance from drug dealers or from previous veterinary advice.

In conclusion, to the best of our knowledge, this was the first empirical study in Uganda to examine clients’ knowledge, ability to correctly apply guidelines during administration of drugs and the factors that influence farmers’ decisions on the application of veterinary instructions and manufacturer recommendations (guidelines). The results indicate that mostly poultry farmers have moderate knowledge and their ability to understand instructions (guidelines) and correctly apply them during administration the drugs on farms is still ineffective. Given that the level of education, experience and sensitization very significantly influence farmers’ decision to apply guidelines. There is urgent need to increase awareness creation and educate farmers on value of guidelines. Therefore, training of key stakeholders on application of guideline on prudent use of veterinary antibiotics, explore alternative remedies to replace antibiotics and strengthen regulation on handling, supply and use of veterinary antibiotics.

Study limitations

The sample size was very small due to lack resources to operate on a large scale. So a similar research would be taken up at a relatively larger scale probably at country level.


The authors acknowledge the Uganda Christian University staff under the Department of Agricultural and biological sciences for technical input and the financial support from Jeanne Lynne koenings, Hoffman family foundation and Mr. Mirimu Aeden Kaggwa.


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Received 8 June 2017; Accepted 27 July 2017; Published 1 September 2017

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