COCCI Profile: Long-Range Planning

New tools and strategies are helping Wayne Farms to better manage coccidiosis while optimizing both product and bird performance

Wayne nutritionist John Halley (left) with vets Don Waldrip and Marshall Putnam: 'We've totally changed our approach to coccidiosis control.'

Managing coccidiosis in poultry used to be a no-brainer. Simply pick the feed additives that work best in your operation and rotate or shuttle them for maximum performance and return.

"Ten years ago or so, we used to look at our anticoccidial usage on a 6- month basis. Now we're looking 2 or 3 years down the road," says Don Waldrip, DVM, director of animal health for Wayne Farms LLC, based in Oakwood, Ga. "Coccidiosis management is a lot more complicated today," he adds. "You need to position certain anticoccidials by time of year, by length of usage, by loss of sensitivity and other factors. The decision-making process on the use of coccidiostats has become more involved. Deciding which anticoccidial to use and what frequency is increasingly more important."

The process is particularly challenging at a large operation like Wayne Farms, which every week processes some 5 million large birds "mostly 7 to 7.4 pounds "from eight integrated facilities in six states. Wayne is now the sixth largest vertically integrated processor in the United States.

No complaints

Waldrip sees the growing complexity of coccidiosis management as a sign of progress against the costly, tenacious and ubiquitous protozoan disease that continues to challenge poultry operations worldwide.

"We used salinomycin for a long, long time," adds William Elrod, live production manager at the company's Pendergrass complex. "So when we went over to some of the other management options available, we got a significant boost in performance. It really changed our whole philosophy on coccidiosis management."

In the United States, Clinacox™ (diclazuril) "a new-generation synthetic anticoccidial that is in a different chemical family than other in-feed treatments "is now letting many US poultry operations clean up houses infected by resistant wild strains of the Eimeria parasite while boosting feed efficiency an average of 5 points. Looking to optimizing use of salinomycin and other ionophores, Wayne and many other progressive poultry operations are also vaccinating for coccidiosis instead of leaning entirely on in-feed anticoccidials.

The poultry industry is developing a better understanding of how to juggle anticoccidial products for maximum effectiveness. Research at the USDA, for example, has shown that vaccinating with Coccivac®-B, a live-oocyst vaccine administered to day-old chicks in the hatchery, renews the sensitivity of an on-farm coccidial population to the ionophore salinomycin.

Working through Schering-Plough Animal Health and Greg Mathis, PhD, of Southern Poultry Research, Inc., in Athens, Ga., Wayne is now monitoring sensitivities to Eimeria organisms from the litter of its more than 2,500 houses.

Proactive, not reactive

"We've totally changed our approach to coccidiosis control, from one of using ionophore leakage to develop immunity to a more performance-driven scheme where leakage is not as important," explains Marshall Putnam, DVM, director of poultry health at Wayne.

"We're taking a fuller, more integrated, proactive approach to coccidiosis control," he adds, "rather than a reactionary approach, where you post birds only when you're not satisfied with the feed conversion and then decide to change the control program."

In a perfect world, Waldrip and Putnam say they'd devise a set rotation using all types of anticoccidials "vaccines, chemicals, ionophores "for their more than 2,500 houses to follow. But variances in temperatures, moisture levels and other factors make it impossible to implement a rigid, universal program, especially for an operation spread over six states.

"With coccidiosis, you have to consider all your options and address it with a long-range attack plan," Waldrip says. "At the same time, you still need to remain flexible to address the unique circumstances of each farm. The additional tools we have available today help us accomplish that while maintaining good performance."

Over the past 2 to 3 years, the biggest change to Wayne's strategy has been the use of vaccination for at least three cycles in about 40% of its facilities. Wayne first used Coccivac at its operation in Laurel, Miss., where hot, humid summers traditionally intensify coccidiosis pressure.

Summertime cues

Wayne now uses Clinacox "either in the starter and grower feeds for one cycle or in the grower cycle only for two cycles "to provide a foundation for its coccidiosis program. The operation then switches to Coccivac for three cycles or more in most cases.

Not wanting to lose the well-documented performance advantage of Clinacox, Wayne likes to leave at least 12 months between treatments "a goal that in reality "cycles out to 18 months or so, depending on where we're at with our program," Waldrip says.

No Hassles at the Feed Mill

From a logistics standpoint, Wayne's feed mills didn't have any problem with incorporating the vaccine into their program.

"Our feed mills pay close attention to what they're delivering and where," says company nutritionist John Halley, PhD. "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."

Halley says the "secret to implementation success" is keeping everyone in the loop, from the decision-makers to the feed mill manager to the drivers.

"Feed mills conduct trials at certain periods of time, so they are wellacquainted with how to track feed and to make sure it gets to the right place," he says. "It hasn't created any special challenges for us."

The need to rest in-feed anticoccidials has helped to fuel even more interest in vaccination. For example, one of Wayne's complexes opted to forego switching to an ionophore this past winter and stay on Coccivac until spring. One option would then be to go to the ionophore and 3-Nitro (arsenelic acid) for two cycles before rotating to Clinacox during the summer. After that, the plan is to go back to the vaccine.

Going the distance

Bird performance isn't exactly suffering in the meantime.

"After five cycles with the vaccine, our Pendergrass [Georgia] complex hasn't seen any downturn in performance," Waldrip says. "In fact, for some reason, we find performance of vaccinated birds tends to get better with each successive cycle "possibly due to a shift in Eimeria populations."

The only concern Waldrip has about vaccinating in winter is that some complexes may be tempted to hold birds in the partial house to save on heating costs "a situation that could expose them to higher concentrations of recycled oocysts.

"It really depends on the moisture level of the litter and weather conditions, but as a general rule, we like to see vaccinated birds turned out no later than 14 days," he says. "If you do that and maintain a good facility with good ventilation and litter management, you shouldn't have any problems using Coccivac year-round."

Putnam agrees. "Good management is key to the success of any health program, whether it's coccidiosis or any other poultry disease," he adds. "Anyone who thinks they have to make a lot of changes in their program before using Coccivac has the cart before the

Maintaining Uniform Coverage and Protection

Shane Ford gets ready to refill tank of Spraycox spray cabinet.

The development of new technology for administering Coccivac has helped Wayne seamlessly incorporate vaccination into its coccidiosis-management program.

For example, the specially designed Spraycox™ spray cabinet, which USDA approved for use with Coccivac in 1997, showers crates of 100 chicks with a uniform dose of vaccine. The red dye in the vaccine encourages preening among the chicks, which in turn helps to circulate the vaccine. The dye also serves as a good marker.

"The dye helps us spot check spray patterns and coverage, but it's not the total indicator," says Pendergrass hatchery manager Shane Ford. "We also check the dosage regularly to make sure it's delivering 21 ml of vaccine. We also keep the reflectors and the electric eye clean."

In addition to a backup spray cabinet, Wayne also keeps a Spraycox™ Jr. "a hand-held applicator introduced last year "as a backup to the main online spray cabinet or to spot treat any boxes of birds.

horse. If houses are not being managed properly or if litter moisture levels are too high, there is a possibility that any coccidiosis program may fail. Good house management is a prerequisite for the use of any anticoccidial product."

Balanced nutrition is also critical to flock health. But in Wayne's case, switching to a coccidiosis vaccine didn't require changing the company's feed regimen.

"We raise large birds, some up to 7.5 pounds, so we tend to use a fairly dense nutrient package because we're looking for yield," says company nutritionist John Halley, PhD.

"If you're raising smaller birds, you need to make sure the nutrients are there to maintain performance after vaccination. You need adequate levels of vitamins E and A, a sufficient crude protein level, and make sure that the amino acids are high."

As good or better

Wayne keeps performance figures confidential, but according to the technical team at the company, vaccinating for coccidiosis instead of using a feed additive has helped to maintain or even improve performance.

"We've used Coccivac in several locations for 2 or 3 years now and we can't tell any significant difference in performance between vaccinated birds and those treated with an ionophore with 3-Nitro," Halley says. "It's been our experience that vaccinated birds perform as well or, in some cases, even better. The vaccine also lets us break up the use of the feed additives, so they'll be more effective for us in the future."

John Moore, broiler manager at Wayne's Pendergrass facility, has heard similar reports from other complexes. "The vaccinated birds might start off a little slower, but they get over the initial reaction quickly and make up for lost time," he says. "Our weights are the same or possibly better."

Source: CocciForum Issue No.6, Schering-Plough Animal Health.

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