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New data shows scope to improve broiler intestinal health

The latest data from Elanco’s Health Tracking System (HTSi) shows an overall drop in broiler intestinal health, highlighting a crucial opportunity to improve feed efficiency and bird performance, with potentially significant financial benefits.

The 2021 HTSi report, launched at Pig and Poultry Fair, analysed animal health data from 5,988 necropsied birds, covering over 90% of the UK broiler market, providing a unique insight into the status of bird health and Intestinal Integrity in UK&I broilers.

“HTSi collects data that incorporates multiple lesions to assess all the important markers of bird health. This includes gut health, locomotor function, respiratory integrity and bird welfare,” said Tom Hepburn, EKS Technology & Analytics, Poultry International at Elanco.

Significant impact on performance

With the intestines arguably the most important body system of the broiler, Mr Hepburn explained that Intestinal Integrity is one of the key parameters monitored within HTSi.

“The programme generates an Intestinal Integrity score known as I2, which takes into consideration 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 (FCR) and bird performance,” he said.

The 2021 report shows that the Iindex of UK&I flocks in 2021, was overall lower than in 2020 and 2019. Scores declined throughout the winter of 2020 and this continued into the spring of 2021. While post-April there was a steady increase in Iscore, this then plateaued.

According to Mr Hepburn, this could be due to seasonal challenges and because the coccidiosis challenge in 2021 was higher, with report data indicating a stronger and longer peak challenge from E. acervulina and E. maxima across the cycle, the two most prevalent species of coccidiosis in the UK&I.

Potential financial benefits

Either way, he said the data highlights scope for improvement in I2, which could generate significant financial benefits.

“As I2 improves, so will FCR and average daily gain (ADG). Maximising feed efficiency and improving these key performance indicators (KPIs) 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 one unit increase in I2, ADG increases by 0.04g and FCR improves by 0.13 points[1]. So, for example, if you’ve got an FCR of 1.520 and the I2 score moves from 90 to 100, FCR will improve to 1.507.”

To put this into perspective, Mr Hepburn said that a poultry company producing 100 million broilers per year, could see an income boost of £572,000 by improving their I2 by five points, something that is very achievable with the right interventions[2].

“Improving Intestinal Integrity and gut health is key to sustainable broiler production with environmental, economic and social benefits to be seen from managing coccidiosis as well as other gut lesions.

“With this in mind, data from Elanco’s Health Tracking System (HTSi) is an extremely powerful tool that enables poultry businesses to monitor the performance of birds, better understand flock health and drive towards future improvements,” concluded Mr Hepburn.

A full version of Elanco’s latest HTSi report can be found here: https://www.myelanco.co.uk/brand/htsi.

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