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Controlling enteritis without drugs

Year-round coccidiosis control by vaccination enabled Fischer Family Poultry to take another step to reduce medication use in its broilers. In response to a market opportunity, the company removed all antibiotics from broiler feed and water.

During initial stages of the transition, the company experienced necrotic enteritis (NE) on some farms between 14 and 28 days of age and learned to watch for NE triggers, such as feed outage.

“Birds that suddenly eat too much, too fast — such as flocks that experience a temporary feed outage or aggressive lighting programs — are more likely to break with necrotic enteritis,” poultry consultant Derek Detzler said.

Fischer Family Poultry obtained authorization to begin vaccinating broiler pullets with Netvax, a Clostridium perfringens type-A vaccine that was also being used by some US producers under a conditional license from the US Department of Agriculture. Detzler said that the vaccine, which transfers immunity to baby chicks, effectively controlled mortality (Figure 1) and increased the average daily gain in antibiotic-free birds.

Preventing NE in antibiotic-free birds requires good nutrition, especially early in life, as well as good immunity, proper management and the use of the clostridia vaccine when necessary, Detzler said.

Netvax has since been licensed in Europe and will become available to producers there in 2012. While NE is not regarded as a big problem in European poultry farms, disease specialists say its prevalence may be masked by the use of antibiotics in the birds’ drinking water, which has increased since the ban on using in-feed antibiotics in 2006.

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