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SPECIAL REPORT: Charting the Course for Intestinal Health

Specialists discuss IDEA concept, address new opportunities for feed management when vaccinating broilers for coccidiosis.

Vaccinating for coccidiosis has hatched many new ideas in broiler nutrition as poultry companies break free from the rigid feeding schemes once mandated by in-feed anticoccidials.With more progressive companies leaning toward vaccination as their primary and, in some cases, exclusive means of coccidiosis control, they’re finding they can build their nutrition programs around the needs of the birds, not the prescribed regimen or withdrawal time of a coccidiosis drug.

This trend gave birth to the IDEA concept, a new approach to managing broiler feeds. IDEA stands for Impulse, Digestibility, Economic and Advance — all key concepts that make up the concept’s foundation.

“The IDEA concept seeks to enhance immunity development and reduce intestinal challenges by coccidia and bacteria without the use of drugs, while also giving poultry companies the opportunity to better manage nutrition for birds,” says Fabio Paganini, senior product manager for Schering-Plough Animal Health Corporation. “It potentially reduces feed costs while conditioning the gut for better coccidiosis management.

”With these benefits in mind, Schering-Plough Animal Health recently hosted a symposium, “New Paradigms in Poultry Nutrition and Management,” in Madeira, Portugal. The event attracted nutritionists from more than 30 leading poultry companies worldwide.

Managing editor Joe Feeks, who attended the conference and then talked with each speaker regarding the take-away messages from their presentation, filed this report. For a free copy of the conference proceedings, send your name, address and phone number to fabio.paganini@spcorp.com.

IDEA: Making nutrition, management and environment part of coccidiosis management

Dr. Rick Phillips - Schering-Plough Animal Health USA
Dr. Rick
Phillips

Phillips reviewed the principles of IDEA, insisting it was a “concept” wide open to customization, not a rigid program for all poultry companies to follow.

“We’re trying to bring all the production disciplines such as live production managers, veterinarians, physiologists, and the nutritionists together to talk about the nutritional needs of the birds — not just the good aspects, but those that may have a negative impact on another discipline,” he said.

For example: If management changes a lighting program to help them manage the bird, that could have an impact on feed intake, which could have a negative effect on the bird.

“That might override the positive effect they achieved on the management side,” Phillips said, “so it’s important to have all the production disciplines in the room to talk about the true needs of the birds. That way, poultry companies can put all their recommendations on the table and make sure there aren’t conflicts. This isn’t a new concept, but the industry has gotten away from it over the years. We also know that drugs can also cover up a lot management flaws.”

Phillips reminded the audience that subclinical coccidiosis is still the number one cause of performance loss in the world poultry industry today, either as a primary or secondary disease agent. Without vaccination or other new strategies for coccidiosis control, the full genetic potential of the bird will not be realized, and large amounts of money will be left “on the table.”

The veterinarian stressed that birds vaccinated for coccidiosis don’t necessarily need more management than those on medicated feeds, but not having drugs in the feed can give nutritionists more flexibility. This, in turn, can lead to more effective and efficient use of various feedstuffs.

“For decades producers have been building their feed program around infeed anticoccidials, as well as growth promoters,” he said. “Now that we are pulling these drugs away, we have to do things differently — for the simple reason that we’re using products that work differently. We need the various production disciplines to understand how the vaccine works, how the Eimeria pathogens work, and what the host response is to that parasite. Then poultry companies can build a new program around that new strategy.”

Phillips said resistance problems with overused in-feed anticoccidials, which are generally in the feed from 0 to 35 days, have led to “an erosion of performance” in the field. Vaccination gives producers the opportunity to “gain some of that back,” he added, by breaking up the continuous use of these products and perhaps eliminating them altogether. Producers can then stop worrying about drug residues in the feed mill and withdrawal times for in-feed anticoccidials, which reduce
marketing flexibility.

“As the IDEA concept points out, the first 14 days, 15 to 28 days, and then 30 days and beyond are key windows of time,” Phillips explained.“With IDEA, the nutritionist can look at that time frame and build nutritional packages based on the nutritional needs of the bird, instead of the rotation schedule of the in-feed medications or the withdrawal times of the drugs that were in the feed initially.” Phillips said that with the improved genetic potential of today’s birds comes increased demand on the intestinal tract for maximum digestion and absorption. A comprehensive understanding of the intestinal physiology is therefore imperative. “Trials have confirmed that performance is enhanced when digestibility of the protein fed is improved during the time that immunity is developing,” he added.

The poultry veterinarian then addressed the four components of the IDEA concept, which he called a “simple yet innovative approach to feed management” that redefines the birds’ nutritional and management needs during critical phases of grow-out:

Impulse (0-14 days)

The main focus here is intestinal and immune system development. Optimum protein and energy levels, as well as vitamins and trace mineral supplementation, should be critically reviewed and evaluated in the starter (impulse) feeds, Phillips advised.

“Newly hatched chicks need immediate access to solid feed and water to set the stage for good performance later,” he said. “Birds need to achieve maximum duodenum villi development in the first week.”

In the Impulse stage, intestinal microflora are getting established, and bones and muscles are formed at maximum efficiency. This stage also determines the number of enterocytes for the rest of the birds’ life, so it’s critical to guarantee their maximum development.

Digestibility (15-28 days)

Intestinal irritation can open the door to secondary invaders, especially bacteria. Abrasive or less digestible ingredients in the grower feeds therefore should be replaced with high quality, highly digestible ones. Dietary changes should be avoided at 15 to 21 days to prevent intestinal disruption.

Phillips suggested providing high quality feed and an optimal enzyme dosage, while adjusting protein levels as needed because excess, undigested protein encourages overgrowth of undesirable bacteria. Dietary fat should also be of high quality and easily digestible.

Economic (>30 days)

Here’s where poultry companies can cash in. Immunity is now established and birds have the maximum growth potential. Feed consumption also peaks. The strategy now is to focus on maximizing feed efficiency and daily gain, while the vaccine provides lifelong protection against coccidiosis.

Advance

The implementation of the IDEA concept represents an advancement in the traditional thinking with respect to manipulation of immunization, management and nutrition to help improve overall flock performance.

IMPULSE: Maximizing the performance of the intestinal tract immune system

Dr. Andrea Ribeiro - Universidade Federal do Rio Grande do Sul Brazil

Dr. Andrea Ribeiro

It might only take 35 to 50 days for a broiler chick to reach market weight, but its intestinal system changes markedly in that brief lifetime.

‘The anatomy and the physiology of young chicks are completely different from older birds,” Ribeiro said. “They absorb fewer nutrients, so we have to feed them in a different way.”

Ribeiro said the chick’s intestinal system is not fully developed until 7 to 10 days. “All the feed they eat is to develop the intestinal tract,” she explained. “That’s very important because the healthier and bigger their intestines, the more nutrients they will absorb in the grow-out period.”

She said broilers achieve maximum relative weight of digestive organs when they are between 3 and 8 days of age, with the highest increase in the volume of villi of the duodenum occurring when broilers are 4 days old. Development of the jejunum and ileum peaks at 10 days, while the highest crypt depth in the duodenum and jejunum occurs at 10 to 12 days.

The passage of feed through the digestive tract of newly hatched chicks also promotes the development of crypt enterocytes, which gradually replace intestinal enterocytes of the embryo stage. When this replacement is complete, digestion and nutrient absorption reach peak levels.

“That’s why we have to feed them quickly when they arrive in the house,” she continued. “They have to see the food, and the food has to be spread along a big area with no other restrictions. The water has to be clean and fresh, and we need light to stimulate feed intake.

Ribeiro cited one published report showing how feed efficiency in poultry has improved 44% since 1978. She also reviewed the digestibility and absorption of carbohydrates, lipids and proteins before discussing the development of the immune system, which begins in the embryo and continues during the first week of life Ribeiro cautioned against restricting feed or water during the first 1 or 2 days of life, citing several studies showing the negative impact of such restriction on the birds’ weight gain, efficiency and immunity later in life. “Fasting stimulates the secretion of corticosteroids that inhibit the proliferation of immune cells,” she reported.

Once birds are placed and on feed, it’s important to take steps to maximize feed intake, which can be affected by particle size (0.8 mm is ideal) and levels of energy, sodium and protein. Adequate zinc, selenium, vitamin E and vitamin C are also needed to build a strong immune system.

Water intake, which can fluctuate with water temperature and the mineral levels of the feed, is also critical. Less water intake means less feed intake and opens the door to more health problems, she said.

“Any delay in water and feed consumption promotes depressed immune response,” she warned. Immunity is optimized when vitamin A levels are 10 to 20 times higher than the level suggested for maximum growth. Nutrients available in the yolk sac will vary with yolk size and should not be considered as a primary energy source for chicks.

“Water intake is an area neglected by the majority of poultry operations,” she added. “If the bird doesn’t drink, it doesn’t eat.”

She cautioned against adding minerals to the water because they can make the water bitter and discourage consumption. “So observe your birds, that’s my advice,” she said. “And if they drink, they won’t get dehydrated, a very common problem in small birds. They will also retain water and gain weight.”

In addition to being a good growth promoter, sodium encourages water consumption. It also helps to transport glucose and amino acids to the enteric sites. “I think levels above 0.2% are very important in this first 7 to 10 days,” she added.

Managing breeder broilers for better immunity development in chicks

Marcus Kenny - Aviagen Ltd. Scotland

Marcus Kenny

Early nutrition of the chick not only involves feeding the chick, but also the breeder. Poultry companies also must consider the effects of incubation practices on both embryo and chick development.

Kenny addressed the importance of feed allocation for breeders, especially with high-performing flocks “producing a lot more hatching eggs than we’ve seen in the past.”

He also discussed the impact of nutrients — not just the higher inclusion rates required by these birds, but also managing them to better support the immune system of the progeny. “I think this is perhaps an important area going forward with the removal of antibiotic growth promoters and the potential removal of coccidiostats,” he said. “We need to be feeding the parents to try to ensure maximum progeny viability and immune system function as well.

“The developing embryo and the hatched chick are completely dependent for their growth and development on nutrients deposited in the egg,” Kenny said. “Consequently, the physiological status of the chick at hatching is greatly influenced by the nutrition of the breeder hen, which will influence chick size, vigor and the immune status of the chick.”

He noted that underfeeding hens can have an impact on chick quality, particularly early in the early production period. Low feed intake by young commercial breeder flocks can compromise nutrient transfer to the egg, resulting in increased late embryonic death, poorer chick viability and uniformity.

Kenny cited one study where broiler breeders were fed different levels through peak production varying from 140 to 175 grams. “Although the increased feed allocation increased body weight, there was no influence on egg size, but chick weight was influenced by feed allocation,” he reported.

Nutrient supply to broiler breeders also impacts chick quality and production performance. “This places greater emphasis on the nutritionist providing the correct nutrient density diet and the flock manager providing appropriate feed intake to the bird coming into lay,” he said.

Kenny also said a review of work on fat-soluble vitamins, biotin and pantothenic acid has shown that vitamin E has the largest impact on progeny. As a general rule, 100 mg/kg vitamin E is a good level for breeder broiler feeds. He said the jury was still out on vitamin C, noting that some experiments suggest a positive response while a more recent study failed to detect any production benefit. Vitamin A, carotenoids, selenium, vitamin D, vitamin K, biotin and pantothenic acid also have been shown to improve bodyweight, enzyme activities, tissue characteristics and immunity of progeny.

Calcium, phosphorous, sodium, potassium, magnesium and chloride affect shell quality and naturally lead to better egg and chick quality. He cautioned, however, that relatively low phosphorous levels in breeder diets may not lead to the best possible bone integrity in the early stages of growth. Feeding breeders supplemental zinc and manganese amino acid complexes appears to improve the liveability of progeny, while selenium has been shown to improve chick quality.

Incubation also affects chick development. “Based on a 39-day growth period, approximately 35% of the growing life of the bird is during the incubation period,” Kenny said. Research shows that using a “mean hatch time”, rather than 21 days, is a more accurate estimate of the chicks’ “starting point.” Aiming for a tighter hatch spread will result in better weights at day 1, day 7 and end weights, as well as improvements in uniformity.

Kenny said several trials conducted at Aviagen’s facilities show that increasing the density of digestible amino acids in broiler starter diets can improve weight gain by 10 grams at 7 days and by approximately 30 to 50 grams at slaughter.

The feed’s physical characteristics can also impact development and growth. Recent trials have shown feeding a meal versus a pellet can depress early feed intake and reduce both early and later body weights by approximately 15%.

“I think we have to create an environment, not just nutritionally but also physically, that will entice the chick to consume as much nutrients as possible,” Kenny said. “And that’s everything from getting the temperature right to brooding setup to making sure that there’s good exposure to good quality, easy-to-consume crumbs.”

“Small tweaks and changes in management of broilers, especially in the first 2 or 3 days of life, mean an awful lot in terms of growth at 7 days and consequent kill weights.”

DIGESTIBILITY: Promoting integrity of the intestinal tract and the development of early and effective immunity

Dr. Joaquim Brufau - IRTA Research Institute Spain

Dr. Joaquim Brufau

Today the European poultry industry has three concerns — food safety, food safety and food safety,” Brufau said.

Toward that end, regulatory agencies will ban all antibiotic growth promoters by next year, and in-feed anticoccidials are up for review in 2008. While these actions might give consumers a more favorable view of meat production, they will also increase costs for producers and force them to become better managers.

The drug bans will also place more emphasis on nutrition, vaccination and alternative therapies for managing coccidiosis, enteritis and other common diseases.

For this reason, Brufau and his associate, Dr. Maria Francesch, explained, the “D” in the IDEA concept stands for more than digestibility. “It also stands for development of intestinal integrity and defense through better management of the immune system,” he said.

“If the ingredient has a perfect digestibility, that means it does not have anything that impairs absorption of the nutrients of the ingredient. The animal has more energy to build immunity to disease and more energy to react to and create the ideal conditions needed for vaccines.

“These are the challenges we face as more drugs are taken off the market. We need to focus more on nutrition, particularly during the first 15 to 20 days of the bird’s life,” he added.

“It’s like the construction business. If you want to build a big house, you need to construct a big basement. I think birds in a good management system can be raised without antibiotics and still maintain the same level of performance, but we need to pay more attention to details and do all we can to develop good intestinal health early in the bird’s life.”

Brufau said coccidiosis vaccination is and will become an even more important tool to keep Eimeria resistance as low as possible. Increasing the digestibility of feed in vaccinated broilers may reduce negative side effects generated by Clostridium perfringens and other enteric pathogens.

Feeding programs and feed composition can have a significant impact on a bird’s ability to fight intestinal disease, especially when antibiotic growth promoters are not used. This is particularly true in Europe, he added, where producers routinely feed coarse grains containing soluble non-starchpolysaccharides.

Soluble NSP (b-glucans and arabinoxylans) can increase digesta viscosity and reduce nutrient digestibility (particularly fat) by altering intestinal microflora. Studies conducted by IRTA and Schering-Plough Animal Health show that using NSP-degrading enzymes, alone or with antibiotic growth promoters, can increase dietary protein and lipid digestibility in diets with wheat, barley and rye. Enzymes can also enhance villi length and thickness.

ECONOMIC: An accounting of broiler energy expenditure

Dr. Robert Teeter - Oklahoma State University Stillwater

Dr. Robert Teeter

Broiler growth is influenced by numerous dietary factors, such as protein quality and the amount of nutrients and calories the ration provides.

For optimum performance and efficiency, it’s important to maintain optimal calorie/nutrient ratios and accurately rank feedstuffs and feed additives by their impact on energynutrient utilization. Producers also must consider the flock’s environment and how it impacts energy expenditur nutrient need and ultimately intestinal health.

The single largest nutritional factor affecting feed efficiency is the energy level of the feed. Though birds have some capacity to adjust for caloric density, the added energy expenditure linked to feed consumption is costly and can reduce dietary caloric value considerably. Dietary energy utilization by birds depends on ingredient digestibility, as well as its efficiency of conversion into maintenance and productive functions.

“Nutritionists must continually strive to ‘correct’ the metabolic energy (ME) values so they’re in line with actual energy utilized by the bird in their particular environment,” Teeter said. These adjustments hinge on both nutritional and non-nutritional factors that affect the birds’ environment, feed intake and energy utilization.

A new method called Effective Caloric Value (ECV), developed by OSU, helps producers assess the nonnutritional factors. These include:

  • Net energy — Energy used for maintenance and productions
  • Basal metabolism — Heat production of an animal at rest, awake, fasted and housed
  • Maintenance energy needs — Net energy consumed for maintaining body functions, acquiring needed nutrients, generating immunological response and so on.
  • Protein and fat accretion — The amount of feed energy required to obtain a defined tissue increment
  • Nutrition partitioning — Includes feed restriction, ration composition, dietary fat supplementation, rearing temperature, genotype and lighting, which affect protein and fat accretion
  • Thermoneutral environment — The combination of ambient temperature, relative humidity, wind, precipitation, photoperiod, solar radiation intensity and cloud cover
  • Microbial—host interactions — Microbial effects can be both beneficial (vitamin synthesis, toxin destruction, etc.) and detrimental (toxin production, infection, nutrient destruction, energy wasting)

“The ECV system enables seemingly disjointed processes that influence performance to be related via a common performance-based reference standard,” Teeter explained.

“Factors such as lighting, feed form, ration composition, stocking density, waterer or feeder space and overall production systems are all related. Indeed, interacting variables — such as fat addition to elevate caloric density versus deterioration of pellet quality due to fat addition — may be added up so the appropriate course of action can be taken for maximal efficiency. Final bird performance is interactive with stress combinations, the ability of the bird to sustain appetite and its metabolic profile.”

Recognizing the trend toward coccidiosis vaccination, Teeter reported results of energy studies comparing vaccinated birds with flocks on various shuttle programs using in-feed anticoccidials.

“By itself, coccidiosis challenge has a potentially high cost — up to 600 kcal — unless countered with drugs or vaccines,” he reported.

In studies at OSU, vaccination reduced that cost in production environments — saving 150 to 260 kcal over drugs and 400 kcal versus the coccidiosis challenge itself.

During the first 2 weeks of life, the energy cost of vaccinated birds was approximately 47 kcal to attain presumed protection, he reported. When examined to 44 days, the energy cost was 114 Kcal. “The cost appears nominal, yet the final production cost will be determined interactively with bird appetite,” Teeter said.

“When we give a vaccination, what are some of the subtle types of changes that we would need to make in terms of management and nutrition to help the bird through this phase?” Teeter asked. “It ranges between 40 kcal or so to as much as 112 kcals, which is not much in a bird that’s consuming 15,000 kcals at capitalization for market. Those costs are trivial.”

The key issue, he added, is to maintain feed intake in these birds. The caloric cost of developing immunity is small, and Teeter views that as being added into a maintenance requirement. “If we can maintain feed intake, we’ll be able to attain a performance throughout the life cycle of these birds,” he said.

Teeter said behavioral changes take place in vaccinated birds, similar to what would be seen in a disease outbreak because their immune system is being stimulated with a controlled dose of a pathogen.

“Any bird that’s eliciting immunological response will back off feed just a tad,” he said. “And when that happens, they’ll gain a bit less weight and give off more energy as heat. But this is happening early in the production cycle. If you can adjust the feed accordingly in the first 21 days, then you have a bird that’s set up for excellent performance later in life. They’re more resilient; they’re able to handle various types of cocci challenges from the diet, and go on and produce product in a very efficacious type of manner. A bird toward the end of its growing period cycle has a body weight gain up around 90 to 115 grams a day, so there’s great potential to make up any differences that are lost early.”

Teeter noted that even when drugs employed, nutritionists talk about “leakage.”

“But we don’t want to give them so much drug that they don’t become immune, because there we’re trying to get the birds to become immune as well,” he said. “Otherwise we are delaying that process and we’re setting ourselves up for outbreaks in the grower period, which can be much more costly.”

Optimizing broiler nutrition programs

Dr. José Ignacio Barragán - Nutritional Consultant, Spain

Dr. José Ignacio Barragán

Barragán review the principles of broiler nutrition, noting that there was a direct relationship between metabolized energy (ME) and the feed conversion ratio (FCR) and, to a lesser extent, the average daily gain (ADG).

“The higher the ME, the better the FCR and ADG — or at least that’s what we want to believe,” he said. “And we know that the ME/crude protein (CP) relationship determines carcass quality.”

What happens in the field is sometimes a different story, however. While it’s true that higher ME levels always achieve lower FCRs — a variable also influenced by final mortality percentage, days of feeding and pellet quality — this difference is not so obvious for ADG, which is affected by management conditions, environmental quality and the intestinal health of the birds.

“On the other hand, intestinal health depends more on quality and digestibility of raw materials in the feed, rather than the classical nutritional levels,” Barragán said.

“A concentrated formula often lowers the digestibility. So for me, it is much more important to look for excellent digestibility of the raw materials of the feed than to look at its concentration. Many times it is possible to reduce concentration and obtain very good results because, with this reduction in concentration, we can improve digestibility, and the total performance could be better.”

Barragán presented data showing how the almost parallel lines between feed consumption and growth rate split around day 15 and continue to grow farther apart as birds mature.The economic loss from diseased or dead birds also increases markedly with bird age. Each point of mortality in the final days is equivalent to 1% higher FCR (approximately 20 grams or 0.045 lb).

“Mortality’s effect on cost is progressive, increasing toward the last days of the growing period,” Barragan said. “Our goal, therefore, must be to reduce final mortality through optimization of the immune system, sanitation, vaccination and control of metabolic mortality.”

The IDEA concept can help reduce mortality by employing a special starter feed to help improve the immune status of the birds and reduce final mortality due to mild coccidiosis.Increasing digestibility in the middle of the fattening period also could reduce metabolic deaths.

As a general rule, the greater the ADG, the better the FCR. Still, ADG is more affected by management, environmental factors, disease and other variables, he said. The IDEA concept can help maximize ADG by optimizing growth in the first weeks, helping broilers develop a beneficial gut microbiota, reducing intestinal disorders in the middle of the fattening period, lowering clostridium risk and reducing mild coccidiosis outbreaks.

Barragán cautioned against depending on crude protein to optimize ADG. “An increase in protein level may be useful in carcass quality, but an increase in protein or amino acid levels is not clearly related to an increase in ADG,” he added. “However, the availability of digestible protein is closely related to growth and intestinal health. It may be possible to obtain better performance with less concentrated feeds made with quality ingredients.”

The nutritionist presented data showing that birds with the low lowdensity starter diet have the same result as birds with more concentrated ones — possibly because of better digestibility. He also showed that birds vaccinated for coccidiosis can be placed on a lower-cost withdrawal feed earlier than medicated birds without significantly affecting performance and without problems related to in-feed anticoccidials.

In Barragán’s comparative trials of a feeding regimen based on IDEA’s three-feed concept, which included organic acid, the cost was Û10.73 more than the standard three-phase feed cost for the medicated birds. However, the vaccinated birds on the IDEA regimen produced Û19.68 more meat value. A four-phase IDEA diet increased feed cost by Û2.91 but meat value was Û6.32 greater.

“When we slaughter animals at a bigger weight, perhaps 2.5 kg (5.51 lbs), it could be possible to use just three feeds,” he says. “But if you need to slaughter some of your animals at a low weight, at around 36-37 days, it could be necessary to use the four feeds to look for the optimum weight in the younger birds.”

Increasing ADG by 1 gram (0.002 lb) per day could mean a maximum reduction in FCR of 70 grams (0.154 lb), which is equivalent to 3.5% of feeding cost reduction, Barragán said. Reducing mortality by 1% can lower FCR approximately 20 grams (0.045 lb), which is the same as 1% of reduction in feed cost.

“With IDEA, it’s possible to use a low-cost withdrawal feed for a longer period if intestinal health is correct and coccidiosis is not a risk, which is always the case when birds are vaccinated,” Barragán said. “Vaccinating for coccidiosis also can help us obtain better production costs and profitability.”

ADVANCE: Putting IDEA into action

Dr. César Carnicer - Poultry Business Manager, Spain

Dr. César
Carnicer

Carnicer insisted that he’s not the “father” of the IDEA concept, but he can vividly remember when it was born.

He was meeting with nutritional consultant Dr. José Barragán (see above report) and Dr. Delair Bolis, a Schering-Plough Animal Health veterinarian, and discussing ways to ensure success with coccidiosis vaccination, particularly as it related to nutrition.

Bolis presented his ideas for the ideal nutritional status of birds vaccinated for coccidiosis. Barragán named the first stage of the feed program “impulse,” where the strategy is to stimulate the immunity of the birds. The group then talked about a second phase where the focus was on “digestibility.” That led to a discussion about the “economic” benefits and how a such a program could help producers “advance” their efforts to meet regulatory and consumer demand for drug-free approaches to disease management.

“We reviewed our notes from the meeting and the key points were Impulse, Digestibility, Economic, Advance — or IDEA,” Carnicer said. Schering-Plough Animal Health’s management and global technical service team embraced the concept and then worked with nutritionists worldwide to fine tune the basic elements of the “intestinal health” strategy. According to Carnicer, poultry companies are reacting favorably.

“I don’t think we’ll have companies saying, ‘I’m going to do the IDEA program,’ but they are taking our inputs and are applying the principles of IDEA to their own situation,” he said. “IDEA is not a fixed scheme. It’s a bank of knowledge, and each poultry company will adapt it to suit its needs. But it’s clear they are being more proactive with nutrition to ensure a healthy gut instead of relying on drugs.”

Carnicer says coccidiosis vaccination is not a prerequisite for applying the IDEA concept, as its principles can benefit virtually any operation. It is easier to use with vaccinated birds, however, because producers will have more flexibility when there are no anticoccidials in the feed. More important, he added, poultry companies are now designing programs with vaccinated birds in mind — the same way they built programs around anticoccidial drugs.

“Poultry companies like the IDEA concept — not just because it will save them money and help them eliminate drugs, but because it is improving their overall management,” Carnicer said. “They no longer have drugs to mask their problems, so they can see areas for improvement and work with nutritionists and other consultants to make adjustments to the birds’ feed and other factors that will stimulate immune response.”

He reported that the IDEA concept is also helping poultry companies be more flexible with marketing. “The need for a withdrawal feed no longer exists, because you are not using a feed medication for coccidiosis control,” he said. Eliminating in-feed anticoccidials also lets producers “thin out” their flocks and sell lighter birds upon demand. Feel mill personnel say they like not having to flush the feed lines to avoid drug residues.

As the IDEA concept takes hold, Carnicer said poultry companies were moving away from standard threephase programs build around shuttle programs or drug-withdrawal times (e.g., 0-21 days, 22-40 days, 41+ days) to schedules that better meet the nutritional needs of the birds (e.g., 0-14 days, 14-28 days, 28+ days).

“As a general rule, IDEA requires making a higher investment in quality, digestible feeds in the first 25 to 28 days and then a lower investment in the final phase when birds are consuming the most feed,” he said. “Producers are finding that focusing on immunity development, digestibility of the feed and intestinal integrity is more important than nutrient levels.

Experience in Italy

Dr. Corrado Longoni Martini Alimentare Italy

Dr. Corrado Longoni
Longoni, a veterinarian for a major poultry company in Italy, cited five reasons for eliminating infeed anticoccidials and making vaccination against coccidiosis the only method for managing the disease:
  • One-shot administration for lifelong control of coccidiosis (no late outbreaks)
  • Zero withdrawal times, which gives his company great flexibility for marketing lightweight birds and simplifying procedures at the feed mill
  • Opportunity to market poultry meat with additional quality guarantees (e.g., no risk of drug residues)
  • No risk of contaminating feed for other types of birds or other species
  • Restoration of sensitivity to worn-out, in-feed anticoccidials
For a more in-depth report of how Martini Alimentare is using the IDEA concept in its production program, see Cocci People - Safety Net article.

Experience in the United States

Dr. John Halley Cobb-Vantress United States

Dr. John Halley Cobb

Halley, a nutritionist, discussed his experience with coccidiosis vaccination while he was a nutritionist for one of the largest poultry companies in the US.

“The motivation for our use of Coccivac was probably a little different than it would be today,” he said “This was 5 years ago and, at the time, most companies in the US used roxarsone along with ionophores to give better coccidiosis control.”

The poultry company produced large birds — generally 3 to 3.5 kg (6.61 to 7.72 lbs) — all for deboning.

“One of the problems we had in the summer is we started to see ruptured tendons in these large birds. We wanted to get to a program where we could take the roxarsone out of the feed but still have good coccidiosis control.”

The company started vaccinating with Coccivac-B in one complex to see how it would work, starting late in the spring and running through the summer to get all the birds through the heat of the summer. Then the company would go back to its regular program in the fall, which was salinomycin and roxarsone.

The company expected to lose some feed conversion and daily gain after switching to vaccination, but figured it would make up for any losses after going to the well-tested drugs and getting better performance from these medications.

“But as we went on to the Coccivac- B in the first complex, we didn’t see any loss in performance,” Halley reported. “Performance stayed the same as far as weight gain, feed conversion, and that particular complex went through three complete cycles that summer on Coccivac-B.

“What we found was that performance got better with each successive cycle. We got better feed conversion and picked up one or two points feed conversion.”

When the company went back to salinomycin, it didn’t see this big kick that other companies talked about.

“But then, we didn’t lose the performance going onto the vaccine, either,” Halley said. “So over the next 4 or 5 years we went ahead and put four or five other complexes onto this program, running Coccivac during the summer.”

At any one time, the company was processing 3 million to 3.5 million birds a week on this program and all complexes, whether they were in the deep South in the United States or in the mid-South, up in the North Carolina region, saw similar results.

“We didn’t lose performance when we went on the vaccine, but with each successive cycle we actually picked up a little bit of feed conversion at the same body weights, and therefore we improved our cost and our production economics,” he explains. “We actually had one complex that wanted to use it year-round.”

From a logistics standpoint, the company’s feed mills didn’t have any problem with incorporating the vaccine into their program. Halley said they paid close attention to what they were delivering and where during the transition periods. “That’s important because accidentally putting an ionophore or chemical in the feed will kill the vaccine. Likewise, if you don’t medicate the birds that are supposed to get medicated, they’ll run into problems as well

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