As a poultry producer, you think about your intestinal integrity (I2) program all year. Even though many of you will have your program planned out a year in advance, it’s important to be open to making adjustments. For example, if you notice a loss in performance once birds get to the processing facility, you may need to re-evaluate your I2 program.

The obvious first thing to look for is coccidiosis. 

Management Strategies to Improve Poultry Intestinal Integrity
Having an anticoccidial plan in place all year round to help control coccidiosis (cocci) is important. However, it’s especially important during the winter and early spring because this is when cocci is going to be the most challenging.

When temperatures start to drop, maintaining ventilation and keeping litter dry becomes more challenging.

“Ventilation requires the use of fans, which bring outside air into the barn,” says Maggie Thompson, DVM, a Poultry Technical Consultant with Elanco Animal Health. “During the winter, these fans are bringing cool, damp air into the barn and can counteract your attempts to maintain barn temperatures. How well you manage litter quality in the winter can affect performance into the next season.

Making sure birds get off to a good start shortly after placement is also important for improving intestinal integrity. Walking barns multiple times per day to encourage movement to feed and water helps establish good gut health from the very start. If birds are challenged at the beginning, they are more likely to face challenges for the rest of the grow-out period.

It is also important to make sure you follow proper biosecurity practices on your operation. Farm workers can pick infectious diseases up on their boots and track them into the barns themselves. These diseases can negatively impact the birds’ immune system and reduce their ability to respond to coccidiosis. Poultry barns should have dedicated areas, often located outside the barn, where producers, service techs and visitors can put on protective coveralls and over-boots, before stepping in disinfectant powder as they enter the barn.

What Programs to Choose Throughout the Year
There are many options for controlling coccidiosis, including vaccines, chemicals and ionophores. While choosing the right program is important, a well-planned anticoccidial rotation strategy is critical to ensure your flocks respond maximally to the intervention. We recommend that you rotate your anticoccidial program no more than three times each year to help with overall planning, management, gut integrity, bird performance and coccidiosis control.

While vaccine programs are best suited to late spring and summer, you should consider using your best and most successful programs in the wintertime. One of the most effective programs uses a chemical or an ionophore such as Maxiban, Coban or Monteban. This combination delivers optimal protection to the birds’ intestinal integrity.

A common winter anticoccidial program shuttles from a Nicarb (nicarbazin) starter to Coban in grower and finisher feeds. This has become a standard in the industry because Coban offers a flexible dose range, a zero-day withdrawal and is a proven and reliable anticoccidial.

In a No Antibiotics Ever (NAE) program, you may consider a Nicarb or potent chemical program, but timing has to be top of mind. In some regions, it’s common to see warmer temperature spikes at the end of winter, which can reduce feed intake or even cause mortality due to the Nicarb mode of action.

I2 Tracking Scores Can Help Predict Program Success
The Intestinal Integrity Index (I2 Index) provides an overall picture or metric of broiler and turkey intestinal integrity. With the help of an Elanco Technical Consultant, we can track and benchmark the health of your birds over time, evaluate a broad range of health conditions and identify potential health issues early.

“Many producers put a lot of stake in their I2 scores,” says Thompson. “Using this data, we can easily analyze the historical trends, such as the anticoccidial program they were utilizing and what other challenges you were facing at different times to help plan future programs.

These health and performance insights can be a contributor to data-driven flock health management and help identify specific health issues that may follow a seasonal trend. This leads to more strategic and targeted interventions. 

Analyze Your Posting Session Results
Posting sessions will help evaluate your cocci control program. During a posting session, an Elanco technical consultant evaluates all organ systems. Overall bird health, in addition to gut health, is assessed. You can then use this data to make any necessary adjustments to your program.

You can contact your Elanco Technical Consultant to discuss which strategies can support your Intestinal Integrity Program.

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