Raised without antibiotics: How to control coccidiosis in poultry and reach this goal (Part 1)

A series of press releases by prominent food chains and wholesalers demanding poultry that has been raised ‘without antibiotics’ has caused a quick paradigm shift in broiler production towards the reduction or elimination of antibiotics and the control of pathologies such as coccidiosis in poultry.

Poultry labelled ‘raised without antibiotics’ are distinctive products that more and more often are found in restaurants and supermarkets. However, making this type of product is a challenge for companies. One of the obstacles to raising chickens without antibiotics is coccidiosis in poultry.

Chemical and ionophore coccidiostats are available to combat coccidiosis. Ionophores are defined as antibiotics, whilst chemical anticoccidials are not antibiotics and may be used to combat coccidiosis in poultry labelled “raised without antibiotics”. The main problem with the use of chemical anticoccidials is their aggressive action against beneficial gut bacteria and the reduction of effect when they are used frequently.

Not only are coccidiostats useful for combating coccidiosis, but coccidiosis vaccination is another very good option. Hipracox® vaccine can be used in rotation every year with anticoccidials to seed the farms with sensitive vaccinal coccidiosis strains. The restoration of the sensitivity of the field strain is temporary. Indeed, if the aim of the poultry company is not to rear broilers without antibiotics, the use of the vaccine in rotation with anticoccidials can be an option.

Vaccination rotation is not the only option in vaccination programmes in broilers. More and more companies are using vaccines against coccidiosis satisfactorily all year round. In fact, statistical studies endorse the efficacy of this scheme.

Coccidiosis in poultry is one of the issues to keep in mind, but nonetheless there are other digestive pathologies that cause imbalance of the intestinal microflora.

Without antibiotics, extra care should be taken to avoid conditions that could stimulate an imbalance of microflora. Reformulating the feed (reducing the protein ratio), adding organic acids or using holistic products can be of help in reducing digestive problems.

Highly digestible feed ingredients should be used during the starter phase to avoid undigested nutrients reaching the caecum and to reduce digestive problems, not only those caused by coccidia but also by viruses and bacteria. Investing in a highly digestible starter feed may provide a strong return on investment in an antibiotic-free production environment and improve productive parameters.

And finally, vaccination is a very interesting way of combating coccidia. Hipracox® can be used very effectively in rotation or continuously. Satisfactory results were obtained in chickens raised without antibiotics using Hipracox® continuously. Extra care in management, the use of special additives and the quality of feed will produce a satisfactory outcome in the field results.