Given the increase in stocking density since the mid 1980s (12.5 birds per square metre versus 26 birds today in some systems), risks of a coccidia challenge had also escalated in part by extra heat and moisture in the bird environment.
Having seeded down the gut with beneficial flora the task is to feed this microflora to perform the task of breaking down feed higher up the intestinal tract for absorption.
“While you have the advantage the harmful microflora still need to be weeded out. We can do this in a number of ways but a healthy gut will help competitively exclude unwanted micro-flora, and the use of a competitive exclusion product maximizes this. Other methods include use of essential oils or type 1 (yeast-based) fimbriae blockers that make colonisation by unwanted microfl ora more difficult.”
Vaccination and Nutrition
“Unlike chicks in the wild which continue to pick up beneficial microflora after hatching from exposure to adult faeces in the nest environment, we need to replicate this seeding down of the benefi cial gut fl ora for the farmed bird. This can be achieved by spraying newly hatched chicks with an appropriate competitive exclusion or probiotic product,” he added.
Dr Collett told delegates that while much attention is given to the health of the upper intestinal tract as that determines efficient use of feed, the caecal or lower part of the tract deserves just as much attention.
“We can feed the microflora using organic acids applied to drinking water. If we get this right, villi in a healthy intestine can be seen easily with the naked eye in regular parallel lines.”
Manipulating the cycle in this way has resulted in excellent results and since 2012 they have been successfully using the vaccine on a continuous basis.
“The ‘Seed, Feed, Weed’ concept is a comprehensive programme developed in order to improve the gut health of birds, whether breeder, broiler or layer. Improved performance has been measured across all types of birds, however if good gut health can be established in the breeding population this will provide the biggest benefit to chick and hence bird performance.”
Gut health is the limiting factor in poultry production, regardless of species. Improving gut health will directly impact performance, and, as a result, it should be at the forefront of producers’ minds. The gut is the first portal of entry for a vast array of pathogens, and it interacts with all other bodily systems. As such, there is no silver bullet for improving gut health status; management, genetics, nutrition and additives can all play a part.