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Opinion: “More sustainable solutions”

What a difference a decade can make.

More than 10 years ago, when I left the world of live broiler production to join what is now MSD Animal Health, hardly any of the world’s mainstream poultry companies were vaccinating for coccidiosis. Adding ionophore antibiotics and chemicals to the feed was their standard procedure for managing this ubiquitous poultry disease.

Fast forward to 2012. Not only are most mainstream producers vaccinating at least a portion of their birds for coccidiosis, they’re doing it in greater numbers every year.

One good example of this trend is in the US, the world’s largest poultry producer. Based on production statistics of US growers, we estimate that nearly 25% of broiler chicks hatched over the past 12 months were vaccinated for coccidiosis. That’s a huge increase from only 3 years ago. It also speaks volumes for the growth of coccidiosis vaccination and its large-scale use by commercial broiler producers.

Global trend

Similar trends are being seen in Asia, Europe, the Middle East and Latin America. To be fair, it must be noted that some producers had no other choice but to vaccinate after their feed medications began to lose effectiveness or quit on them altogether.

Take Santiago Bellés of Grupo Sada in Spain, for example. More than 5 years ago, the progressive veterinarian became increasingly concerned about subclinical coccidiosis in medicated birds. He decided to try coccidiosis vaccination, though all he really wanted to do was find a new tool for managing the disease — something to break up the resistance patterns that developed after years of ionophore usage.

“Our aim was only to prevent coccidiosis, without expecting to improve performance parameters,” he recalls in an article beginning on page 7. “However, the benefits of vaccination have proved to be much greater than we ever anticipated.” Vaccination is now part of Grupo Sada’s standard program.

‘Significant boosts’

Other major companies have had similar experiences. At one of Pilgrim’s operations in the US, production manager John Haas says they’ve revamped their strategy and are now vaccinating for coccidiosis “at least 6 months of the year, sometimes a bit longer” — a change that has led to “significant boosts” in flock performance. Go to page 22 to read about his experiences.

And some innovative operations have stopped using coccidiosis medications completely. Derek Detzler, a consultant for Fischer Family Farms in Ontario, Canada, reports on page 13 that broiler performance improved with each successive flock that was vaccinated. When Fischer switched back to medications in winter, flock performance leveled off or declined. The operation now vaccinates all of its birds year-round for coccidiosis.

Coccidiosis is not the only intestinal disease that’s being managed with fewer drugs. With the development of Netvax, the world’s first vaccine for managing enteritis, veterinarians think the vaccine could one day allow producers to reduce or even eliminate medications for intestinal disease without compromising performance.

At MSD Animal Health, we are pleased to be helping the world’s poultry industry find new and more sustainable solutions for managing these costly and persistent diseases. Rest assured that we remain dedicated to building on this success and sharing our experiences with producers worldwide. This special global edition of Intestinal Health is the latest example of this commitment.

Fabio Paganini, DVM
Head, Global Integrated Livestock Business Unit
MSD Animal Health
[email protected]

Back to Global Edition (#7)