The latest data from Elanco’s Health Tracking System (HTSi) shows an overall drop in broiler intestinal health, highlighting a crucial opportunity for producers to boost feed efficiency and bird performance.
The 2021 HTSi report, released at the UK’s Pig and Poultry Fair, looked at animal health data from 5,988 necropsied birds covering more than 90% of the UK broiler market. The data incorporates multiple lesions to assess important markers of bird health, including gut health, locomotor function, respiratory integrity, and bird welfare.
Tom Hepburn, EKS technology and analytics officer at Elanco, said the program generates an Intestinal Integrity score that considers 23 intestinal health lesions, including coccidiosis, to give a score of between 0 and 100. A score of 90 or below indicates poor intestinal health and is when producers see a significant impact on feed conversion ratio and bird performance.
The report found that the index was lower in 2021 than either 2020 or 2019. Scores declined throughout the winter of 2020, continuing into spring. Post April there was a steady increase, but this had plateaued.
Hepburn said this could be due to seasonal challenges and added that the coccidiosis challenge in 2021 was higher, with report data showing a stronger and longer peak challenge from E. acervulina and E. maxima across the cycle – the 2 most prevalent species in the UK and Ireland.
“As intestinal integrity improves, so will the feed conversion rate and average daily gain. Maximising feed efficiency and improving these key performance indicators, as a result, will always deliver a cost benefit, but even more so during times of high feed prices, such as at present. For every 1 unit increase in intestinal integrity, average daily gain increases by 0.04 grammes and feed conversion rate improves by 0.13 points. So, for example, if you’ve got a feed conversion rate of 1.520 and the intestinal integrity score moves from 90 to 100, the feed conversion rate will improve to 1.507,” he said.
A poultry company producing 100 million broilers per year could see an income boost of £572,000 by improving their intestinal integrity by 5 points, something that is very achievable with the right interventions.
Rick Kleyn, independent nutritionist, said a healthy gut was so important for broiler production as it enhanced bird welfare, improved the environment and boosted producer’s economic position. Producers needed to ensure feed intake was adequate, make sure litter was dry, and remove stresses from the bird’s environment, including heat stress.
The global results showed some interesting findings. In the Netherlands, where birds are reared for longer (47-50 days), there were still cocci challenges, but peaks were much lower, indicating that
pressure on the birds does have an effect along with seasonality issues. Spanish birds also suffered from heat stress while China was particularly concerned by rises in E. necatrix.
“The challenge is growing because we are pushing the birds harder and they are under pressure,” said Hepburn.