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COCCI Focus - Peace of Mind

Switch to coccidiosis vaccine yields flexibility, performance for rapidly growing Peco Foods

Bowman: ‘It seems like we get a boost when we go off the ionophore and switch to the vaccine.’

Van Bowman remembers being concerned when he would switch his larger birds to coccidiostat- free withdrawal feed 7 to 10 days before marketing, hoping they wouldn’t break with coccidiosis en route to their finish weight of 6.5 to 7 pounds.

The live operations manager at Peco Foods, Sebastopol, Miss., had good reason to be concerned.

Medications, even low-cost ones, can get expensive when fed to today’s larger birds. Resistance buildup was another issue.

“We were at a point where only one ionophore, salinomycin, was getting the job done — and I was concerned about that one eventually running out of steam as well,” he says. “And we never had much success rotating anticoccidials to improve performance.

We’d use nicarbazin for a while, but we can’t use it in the summer and there are also export concerns with birds fed that anticoccidial.”

Pulling the Coccidiostat

In 1998, tired of resistance issues, export concerns and the looming threat of coccidiosis breaks, Bowman pulled traditional anticoccidials from the feed and tried managing the disease with a one-dose vaccine that protects against five species of Eimeria for the life of the bird.

“We were a little nervous about it at first,” he admits. “But with the new spray cabinet technology, the vaccine, Coccivac-B, is distributed uniformly and we’re getting excellent control — as good or better than what we’ve had with any in-feed product. In terms of cost, the vaccine broke even with salinomycin.”

There was one additional benefit that Bowman hadn’t anticipated: Peace of mind.

“Because the vaccine protects against coccidiosis for the lifetime of the bird, I don’t have to worry about birds breaking with disease as they get older,” he says. “Vaccination also gave us an opportunity to give one of the few coccidiostats we have left a much needed rest.”

Bowman also thinks vaccination has improved performance of his overall coccidiosis-management program. “It seems like we get a boost when we go off the ionophore and switch to the vaccine,” he says. “Likewise, the ionophore works better after it’s been given some time off.”

In the field, broiler serviceman Rusty Thaggard says Peco’s contract growers have also been pleased with the vaccine’s performance.

“It’s been very successful,” says Thaggard, who supervises 21 of the company’s 120 contract farms near Sebastopol. “The birds’ performance is every bit as good or, in some cases, better than when they were fed an Bowman: ‘It seems like we get a boost when we go off the ionophore and switch to the vaccine.’

“Without the drug, there was one less hassle, one less worry.”

Initially, Peco used the vaccine for three cycles beginning in spring, then followed with feed treatments for the next two to three. The company is now considering extending the vaccine to four cycles.

“The coccidiosis vaccine could be used year-round, but from a milling standpoint, it just happens to work best for us if we get it in the spring,” Bowman explains. “On the small bird, for instance, we still like to use nicarbazin in the winter. The cycling just works best for us from a physical standpoint, but I don’t think timing would matter in terms of performance.”

Feeding for Performance

The switch to vaccination has also allowed Peco to remain more flexible with its nutrition program and feed birds for optimum efficiency and return on investment.

“The length of feeding a certain broiler feed or a regular coccidiostat and drug program is dependent on the coccidiostat being used, the dietary inclusion rate of the coccidiostat, and the growth-promoting drug being used in conjunction with the anticoccidial — plus the nutrient profile of the feed in relationship to the age of the bird,” says Peco’s consulting nutritionist Dr. Rex Bushong, San Angelo, Tex.

“The use of Coccivac-B allows changing feeds without regard for coccidiosis challenge, immunity and bird age, and FDA drug regulations.”

Adds Bowman, “With the vaccine, we can build our nutrition program around the birds’ needs, not some predetermined drug regimen,” he says.

Peco keeps its feed costs confidential, but Bowman says the company’s feed profile is “very competitive.”

“The feed profile for our larger birds — that is, the dollars and cents we put into our feed vs. performance — is now among the best in the country in Agristats,” he adds, referring to an independent industry survey comparing production costs and performance of U.S. poultry companies.

Aiming for Four Cycles

Looking to 2001, Peco expects to start using it in four consecutive cycles on farms linked to its Sebastopol operation, which places 660,000 birds per week. “We’ve been running some trials at one of our complexes and the numbers are looking pretty good,” he says.

The company also plans to use the vaccine in its recently acquired 640,000/week operation in Philadelphia, Miss., where they produce smaller birds weighing 5 to 5.5 pounds. Bowman says he initially had some concerns about using the vaccine in birds fed to lighter weights because of the “knock down” in feed efficiency and growth that can happen the first week or two after coccidiosis vaccination, which introduces live oocysts into the birds. Larger birds have time to recover.

“But I talked to a vet at another poultry company who was using it successfully in birds fed to only 4 pounds, and they had good results with vaccination,” he says.

This spring Bowman says they may back off salinomycin early and try Clinacox™ (diclazuril), a synthetic anticoccidial that recently received combination clearances in the United States with the growth enhancers bacitracin methylene disalicylate, bambermycin and virginiamycin.

“From the data we’ve seen, I’d be inclined to use Clinacox as a clean-up product for one or two cycles before going on the vaccine,” Bowman says. Vaccinated birds have also remained free of clostridial enteritis. Bowman thinks it’s important to keep a growth promotant such as virginiamycin in the starter and grower rations to protect the gut and ward off enteric problems.

“But as time goes on, I think we’ll also see less and less antibiotic usage in chickens,” Bowman predicts. “We see what’s happening in Europe, and the FDA is already talking about banning more antibiotics here. We’re not trying to produce a drug-free bird at this time, but we’re exploring our options so we’ll be ready. Coccidiosis vaccination lets us meet that demand without com-

Nelson: ‘For the feed mill, it’s not confusing…’

Overcoming the Fear

Afraid to try coccidiosis vaccination because of the confusion it might cause at the feed mill? “That’s a cop out,” insists consulting nutritionist Dr. Rex Bushong. “Switching to a coccidiosis vaccination program should pose no problem to a feed mill, provided the mill has a competent manager and a good staff.”

Bushong tells of one mill with limited finished feed storage — only 400 tons — but still manufactures some 5,000 tons of feed per week. “Through excellent mill management and scheduling, this facility has no problems with changing from a Coccivac program to a coccidiostat program,” he says.

Gary Nelson, feed mill manager at Peco’s operation in Sebastopol, agrees. “For the feed mill, it’s not confusing — even though we work with more than 100 different growers. It’s no problem.”

Changing from a feed with an anticoccidial is not a big problem, Nelson explains. “You would have a problem if birds weren’t vaccinated, you got them mixed up and sent them the wrong feed and didn’t give them anticoccidial,” he says. “That’s about the only potential problem, but it can be avoided easily with good management.”

Nelson says the feed dispatcher keeps close tabs on which farm gets what. “And once we get to 4 weeks of age and send out that finisher feed, you’re through. The last 10 days are irrelevant. Believe me, it’s not a big deal.”

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