Technically Speaking

Dr. Phillip Hargis on formulating feeds for birds that have been vaccinated for coccidiosis

Phillip Hargis, Ph.D. Nutritionist Hargis & Associates Batesville, Arkansas


The goals of every poultry feed program are to provide the cheapest feed cost per pound of meat produced, improve corporate profits, and foster acceptable feed mill production and bird processing.
However, the introduction of coccidial vaccines, such as Coccivac-B, has created additional dietary goals necessary to support the new style of coccidiosis control and the trend toward larger bird size. These goals are to support gut integrity, control broiler growth and maintain the success of the overall anticoccidial program.

Five Key Points

For a successful Coccivac-B program, there are at least five points of nutritional consideration required. These do not constitute a complete list of considerations; these are not necessarily the top five, nor are they in any order of importance; they simply provide some sense of the nutritional effort needed for a successful broiler production cycle using Coccivac-B.

1. Total vitamin/trace mineral supplementation. Vitamin and trace mineral supplementation is a must since vitamin absorption is reduced due to gastrointestinal tract irritation. Vitamin D3-related chronic skeletal problems are an example of reduced nutrient intake.

Trace mineral intake is challenged due to gut irritation, so stress-related minerals are needed. Zinc must be increased. Organic selenium is a plus.

A critical review of premix specifications is required. Premixes must be tailored for the coccidiosis control program and take into account feed performance capabilities, the mixing situation at the feed mill, broiler housing conditions and genetics. One example of a premix modification might be a 2X to 3X increase in Vitamin E.

2. Diet quality. The goal is to reduce gut irritation that may occur after coccidial vaccination. For birds to develop immunity to coccidia organisms after vaccination, the live oocysts they receive from the vaccine must invade the intestinal tract and reproduce. In the process, the gut may become stressed, increasing the risk for development of necrotic enteritis. The diet, however, can be designed to provide nutrients that enable the epithelial tissue to recover, minimizing the impact of enteritis.

A good-quality diet would include highly digestible animal proteins. Elevated initial peroxide value ingredients should be controlled and microbial- containing ingredients monitored. Abrasive or less digestible ingredients in the diet should be replaced with highly digestible ones.

For example, it is helpful to include fish meal and fish oil into analog proteins. A diet with corn rather than wheat may reduce the incidence of enteritis. Poultry fat may be preferable to blended fat in the diet.

Beware, however, that summer corn may be subject to mold and other damage and be of poor quality, whereas new fall and winter corn crops generally are of higher quality.
3. Pulling feed during heat. Pulling feed during heat reduces the intake of companion drugs so that the drug intake per bird per day is below effective levels. For the drugs to be effective, their dietary level must match daily feed intake. This can be accomplished by feeding 20 grams virginiamycin/ton of feed, for example, versus 10 to 15 grams/ton.

Birds coming out of the off-feed period tend to gorge on feed, which stresses the gastrointestinal system. Coupled with the reduced intake of companion drugs, the risk for enteritis is increased. Feed restriction programs on broilers in a coccidial vaccine program should be severely reduced if not eliminated.

4. Dietary profile of feeds must fit the situation. The broiler feed program for birds vaccinated with Coccivac-B must be tailored to meet the needs of the birds according to age and growth stage.

Between one and 16 to 21 days, birds should be provided a slow to moderate start with starter feed designed to help heal the gut and maintain gut health. Dietary changes should be avoided at ages 18 to 20 days of age. The dietary nutrient profile up to 21 days of age should support structural development.

From days 16 to 33 days of age, healing the gut and maintaining gut health remains an important goal in order to avoid enteritis problems. The dietary nutrient profile of this grower feed should support drastic bird growth over a short time. In other words, it's time to fill up the gas tank with high test fuel.

From 33 to 60 days of age, the goal is fast growth with withdrawal feed. There is no time for healing, so the healing process should be complete by this time.

5. Right companion drug for the situation. Companion drugs administered with Coccivac-B include virginiamycin, tylosin, bacitracin MD, zinc bacitracin, lincomycin and bambermycins. Companion drugs can be either growth promoters, bacterial control agents or both. It is important to match the drug capability with the time of year, with gastrointestinal tract challenges and the general bird health in the field at the time of Coccivac-B use.

Feed Mill Impact

Coccivac in broilers can produce the same feed cost per pound of meat that can be attained with an anticoccidial drug program. This can be accomplished by designing a feed program that promotes healing and nutrient absorption, thus supporting broilers during the challenge periods presented by use of the vaccine. In other words, an investment in the Coccivac feeding program enables birds to overcome intestinal challenges and perform up to expectations.

The Coccivac feeding program can be much simpler than a traditional feeding program utilizing in-feed coccidiostats. Milling costs can be reduced, there are fewer variations per ton of finished feed and feed delivery is less complicated. The result is a slightly cheaper feed cost per pound of meat produced.

Milling is reduced by decreasing the number of drugs in the microsystem, which streamlines the mixing process. The Coccivac feeding program allows you to feed the finisher/withdrawal feed for longer periods of time. This allows the feed mill to run its finisher/ withdrawal production cycle for several shifts before changing the batch run. Milling costs are slightly reduced. Longer withdrawal feeding periods also can reduce the cost of hauling feed, increasing tons hauled per manhour worked.


Coccivac-B can be successfully used in all larger bird situations if the feeds support the birds during the gastrointestinal tract challenges brought to the program by Coccivac-B. There may be some scares due to weight gain delay during the growing period, but the final results will compete with any drug program.

Source: CocciForum Issue No.2, Schering-Plough Animal Health.

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