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Poultry Health and Performance

Signs of poor poultry health and performance

  • Weight loss
  • Reduced egg production
  • Low fertility and reproductive problems
  • Increased mortality
  • Increased feed conversion ratio
  • Immune suppression and increased susceptibility to disease
  • Increased veterinary and production costs

15 management tips to improve poultry performance

  1. Improve biosecurity: Implementing well-defined biosecurity practices throughout broiler production is crucial to successful poultry production. Effective biosecurity can aid in hygiene and in vermin and insect control on-farm and can help limit disease transmission, both within and between barns.  
  2. Provide appropriate downtime between flocks: An adequate period of downtime (of at least 14 days) should include the appropriate cleaning and disinfection measures between flock placements. This will help reduce the transmission of disease between flocks and will provide ample time to prepare for the next flock.
  3. Perform pre-placement preparation: Taking the necessary pre-placement preparation measures before the new flock arrives is crucial to help prevent losses during brooding and the rest of grow-out. Some checkpoint areas to look at include heaters, the floor temperature, the air temperature, relative humidity probes, ventilation, drinkers and feeders.
  4. Take steps to prevent coccidiosis: Coccidiosis can have a negative impact on intestinal integrity and may predispose birds to other intestinal issues. Maintaining intestinal integrity during this time through innovative technologies — such as those provided through the Alltech® Gut Health Management program — is critical for the best bird performance.
  5. Utilize proper brooding management practices: The brooding period is an important time for intestinal growth and the development of a balanced microflora. With today’s improved genetic capabilities and fast bird growth, more time than ever is being spent in this phase, so ensuring a good start in poultry production can have a significant impact on future bird health and performance.
  6. Manage your litter: Without the proper management, wet litter can serve as a breeding ground for potential pathogens, in addition to rising ammonia levels. Some factors to consider that may help prevent the development of wet litter are the type of material, the quality of the litter, the litter depth, the water quality, drinker line management, lighting management, ventilation and temperature. On the other hand, litter that is too dry and dusty can contribute to dehydration, and inhaling this dust can also lead to respiratory problems.
  7. Don’t underestimate the importance of drinking water: The amount of water that birds need is relative to their size and age, in addition to any environmental stressors. Poultry will generally consume more water than feed; in fact, their water intake should typically be 1.5 to two times higher than their feed intake. Therefore, water is the most critical nutrient for poultry. Proper water management considerations include:
    • The quality, height, pressure, mineral content and accessibility of the water
    • Cleanliness of the drinker lines/regulators prior to flock placement and during production
    • Flushing water lines between flocks and during production
    • The elimination of biofilms and mineral buildup
    • Drinker equipment maintenance
  8. Evaluate your feed and your feeding systems: The proper feeder line height should correspond to the birds’ height, as this will help reduce feed waste and will ensure that all birds have adequate access to the feed. Adequate feed access is also achieved by following the feed line manufacturer’s recommendations for the number of birds per feed pan or line of trough feeders. Birds will naturally peck at litter, but avoiding “out-of-feed” events will help reduce the likelihood that birds will peck excessively at it.
  9. Lower your stocking density: A higher stocking density of poultry, in addition to crowded housing conditions, has been shown to have a negative impact on performance, creating stress for both the birds and their intestinal microbiota. Decreasing the stocking density throughout the overall production process may also help decrease any associated challenges.
  10. Regularly assess environmental conditions: The general environmental management of the barn encompasses many components, including the temperature, relative humidity, ventilation and lighting. Understanding that these components work both individually and together can help inform your management practices.
  11. Monitor birds closely during times of transition: Increasing the frequency at which barns are walked through and examining the activity of the flock can help with early disease detection. Monitoring the temperature, humidity and ventilation inside the barn and outside every day is recommended. Monitoring transition times can help provide a better understanding of what is happening in the barn (e.g., from day to night, when birds are placed, during half-house brooding or feed changes, etc.). Monitoring feed and water consumption also helps monitor a flock’s progress.
  12. Keep an eye on equipment: Walking the barns routinely will also help to ensure that equipment remains in suitable working order.
  13. Conduct regular mortality checks: Cull diseased birds as early as possible in order to prevent the horizontal transmission of any disease and to mitigate cannibalistic behaviors.
  14. Develop a flock health management program: Work with your veterinarian to design a program customized for your flock’s health.
  15. Practice good communication and teamwork: Ensuring strong communication and coordination between all those involved in helping your farm run smoothly will ensure a stronger and more successful gut health management program for your birds.
 
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