COCCI Focus - Kicking the Habit

CP Bangkok produces drug-free birds for Japan

More than half of the 60 million broiler chickens produced annually by Charoen Pokphand's poultry operation in Bangkok are now raised without feed antibiotics or anticoccidials, reports Dr. Kreeta Khanti, veterinarian and senior vice president.

"We are putting more emphasis on vaccination and environmental controls to control disease," he says. "Over the next few years, as we make further improvements to our facilities, we hope to produce all of our birds without drugs."

The change in CP Bangkok's disease- management strategy is driven by several factors:

Changing consumer demand. "We want to help resellers add value to their poultry products, while meeting the changing needs of the consumer," explains CP's Anek Bondoon, a senior vice president.

"Today's consumers know a lot about food safety and are particular about how their food is produced," he adds. "This started in Europe and we're now seeing it throughout the Pacific Rim. We want our supermarket customers and other resellers to be ready to meet the growing demand for natural products."

It appears that CP is on the right track. According to one report by the Mid-America International Agri-Trade Council, a regional trade group in the United States, organic food sales in Japan have increased 20%-30% since the 1980s, with total sales expected to reach US$2.6 billion this year.

The Canada-Japan Trade Council also reports that organic foods are "taking off" in Japan, adding that both Japanese importers and Japanese consumers are increasingly looking for products produced with no chemical or drug additives.

"The Japanese have long had a heightened awareness of and concern about their food supply," the report observes. "In addition, they are attracted by the perceived extra tastiness and nutritional value of organic [foods]."

Denvanich: 'Vaccinating for coccidiosis is now a better option.'

Value-added products. "We look at our supermarket customers as strategic partners," explains CP's Somboon Denvanich, also a senior vice president. "Our resellers wanted a strategy for adding value to their products and meeting the needs of these new markets. That is the way to become the market leader. Drug-free birds are helping our resellers reach that goal and obtain a premium price on their products."

Better margins. According to Denvanich, CP gets a premium of 15% on drug-free poultry. "Finishing time for a 2-kilo (4.4-pound) bird is 45 days, or about 3 days more than when we were using growth promoters and other feed antibiotics," he says. "Overall our production costs are up about 10%, but we're getting a 15% premium."

Producing drug-free birds is also helping CP Bangkok expand. All of its drug-free birds are currently imported by one Japanese buyer, but the company expects demand to increase significantly in Japan and other countries over the next few years.

"We knew that if we wanted to continue exporting to Japan or expand in Europe, we had to move in this direction. We also want to get away from producing a commodity product," Khanti says. "By taking drugs out of the feed, we give our products added value."

Advances in vaccine technology. In the past, CP's biggest obstacle in the way of drug-free birds was coccidiosis, which is usually controlled with ionophorous antibiotics or other chemical coccidiostats.

"Vaccinating for coccidiosis is now a better option," Denvanich says. "It allows us to produce drug-free birds without sacrificing weight gain, conversion or profitability. In fact, switching to vaccination has helped us add more value to our product."

Dr. Khanti says he was apprehensive at first about removing the coccidiostat from starter and grower rations.

"But the vaccine provides protection for the life of the bird, so we don't have to worry about coccidiosis breaks," he says. "It also solved the problems we were having with coccidiostat resistance." The vaccine, Coccivac-B, is a live oocyst vaccine that protects against the most economically significant species of Eimeria causing coccidiosis in broiler chickens. It is administered to dayold chicks by a specially designed spray cabinet that provides uniform distribution of the vaccine.

The next step for CP is to introduce coccidiosis vaccination to the other 30 million birds in its system that presently get antibiotics. "We're not ready to eliminate all the drugs from those older contract facilities, but we would like to try rotating the coccidiosis vaccine with a coccidiostat to reduce drug usage and stop resistance patterns," Denvanich says.

Better facilities and management. New ways of managing birds are also helping CP produce drug-free birds without compromising production. "When you produce this kind of product, you have to watch environmental controls," Denvanich says. "The birds also require more intensive care during the first two weeks of age."

Dr. Khanti says birds are placed at a stocking rate of 12.60-13.50 per square meter (3.28 square feet) in houses with evaporative cooling systems. The litter is changed for every flock. The diets of the drug-free birds have nutrient values comparable to the other birds in CP's system.

"But there are no anticoccidials or growth promoters," he adds. "We use acidifiers to control gram negative bacteria."

Denvanich says their goal is to produce all of their birds without anticoccidials or growth promoters, but he says this may take a few years.

"Eliminating antibiotics is not something you can do on every farm," he says. "It requires a higher level of management and modern buildings, with good ventilation and cooling systems."

Source: CocciForum Issue No.1, Schering-Plough Animal Health.

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