Immunity is Key, Says Merial

UK - Bird health and egg production have improved and breed targets been beaten following the introduction of VAXXITEK® HVT+IBD in day-old chicks at the UK’s largest producer of colony eggs.
calendar icon 20 July 2012
clock icon 4 minute read

Leading experts and research scientists attended this year’s Avian Forum Roma, organised by Merial, where Neville Pennington, General Manager of Oaklands Farm Eggs Ltd, presented a paper on the UK Field Experience with VAXXITEK® HVT+IBD in Layers.

Following vaccination with VAXXITEK® HVT+IBD at day old, the removal of four live, on-farm IBD vaccinations reduced stress for pullets. Good, even body weights have been achieved – often above breed targets – and overall bird health has improved, according to Neville.

Egg production has also improved dramatically, with more than 95 per cent productivity being achieved in the new enriched colony cage system. At 67 weeks, the flock’s egg production was still above breed target, says Mr Pennington.

Oaklands Farm Eggs has 2 million laying birds and are the largest producer of colony eggs and the second biggest egg packers in the UK, packing 2.5 million eggs and processing 20 tonnes of liquid whole egg every day. Pullets are reared from day-old on three sites, one of which has laying hens.

Oaklands Farm Eggs also rears more than 2 million point-of-lay pullets per year and has won many prestigious awards for innovation, health and welfare for its 1.5 million bird enriched colony cage system. It also scooped the title of Free Range Producer of the Year in 2011.

Mr Pennington says that prior to the introduction of VAXXITEK® HVT+IBD in day old chicks, Oaklands Farm Eggs struggled with chick quality, IBD and Marek’s Disease affecting flock performance, poor chick uniformity and variable egg production.

Vaccination with VAXXITEK® HVT+IBD started in March 2010 and now every bird at Oaklands Farm Eggs has been vaccinated.

Day-old chicks are sourced from hatcheries regularly audited for VAXXITEK® HVT+IBD vaccination administration. At 28 days every flock is blood sampled and tested for IBD antibodies using the Biochek ELISA and Synbiotics IBD Pro Flock Plus ELISA to check response to VAXXITEK® HVT+IBD vaccination and exposure to whole IBD viruses.

The efficiency of immune responses in chickens is crucial when trying to achieve the best performance and return in investment, according to Merial Animal Health’s Avian team.

Helen Houghton, Avian Manager UK and ROI, says: “In all animals the immune system builds a solid protection against infections to maintain optimal health. In production animals, and particularly in chickens, the efficiency in the immune responses against various infections can make huge differences in the extent to which chickens can realise their genetic potential.

“Protection of the integrity of the immune system itself is absolutely essential in order to be able to express a broad and effective response when elicited by various wild microorganisms or vaccines.”

Ms Houghton says that in this field of research, Infectious Bursal Disease and Marek’s Disease viruses represented widely distributed infectious agents, causing not only clinical disease but also subclinical forms triggering immunosuppression and economic losses in the different types of chickens reared worldwide.

Speakers from Europe, the Middle East, Africa, Asia, Latin America and the United States discussed the immunosuppressive effects of Marek’s and IBD viruses, the protection achievable with vaccines and vaccination strategies currently available.

Further Reading

Find out more information on the diseases mentioned here by clicking here.
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