Coccidiosis is by far the most important parasitic disease in poultry. Because of the damage which coccidiosis causes to the intestinal tract, birds afflicted by it underperform versus the breed standard (which has improved significantly over the last few decades), and this gap has the potential to widen if coccidiosis is not effectively controlled. One recent calculation estimates that the financial burden of coccidiosis in chickens worldwide amounted to around £10.4 billion at 2016 prices.
This Feedinfo Industry Perspectives piece consults Ben Dehaeck, Global Product Manager for Coccidiostats at Huvepharma® about the best ways to control this global threat and how Huvepharma is maintaining its leadership in this high-stakes category.
[Feedinfo] What trends have you identified within coccidiosis prevalence and control?
[Ben Dehaeck] Because we're seen as the reference company for coccidiosis control, Huvepharma® is frequently consulted for advice. As a result, we have a very good view of the evolution of coccidiosis over the years in different parts of the world.
Coccidiosis data has been entered over the last 6 years and we currently have data from > 60,000 flocks entered in Aviapp®. Aviapp® is our software platform used to manage different types of data, ranging from health data to management, treatment and performance data. This allows us to produce prevalence graphs of coccidiosis in all parts of the world. As an example, we can share the prevalence data from Europe in 2022, where the peak score for E. acervulina was 0.63 at 25 days of age, for E. maxima the peak was 0.16 at 30 days and for E. tenella it was 0.04 at 29 days (Figure 1). Lesion scores in various European countries increased significantly in the months after the outbreak of the war in Ukraine. Gut integrity was apparently challenged by changes in feed formulations which became necessary to cope with the reduced availability of feed ingredients.
In general, large differences exist between countries and producers as a lot of factors have an influence on the evolution of the coccidiosis pressure: climate conditions, management, feed quality, and the use of coccidiostats or coccidiosis vaccines, to name a few. The goal is always to have the most efficient coccidiosis control under local conditions. Obviously, challenges are different in different regions, and this is why we believe it is so important to have local technical experts present on-farm.
[Feedinfo] How do countries around the world differ in there approaches to coccidiosis?
[Ben Dehaeck] Many variables influence the approach to coccidiosis control: climate, market requirement, and availability of products. Basically, the coccidiosis pressure can be linked with outside temperature and humidity, with higher moisture in the litter increasing the infection pressure. Depending on the climatic region, a winter/summer program or a wet/dry season program might be used.
Beyond that, market requirements, such as desired end weights, possible restrictions on the use of coccidiostats, animal welfare requirements and so on will have a huge impact on how we manage coccidiosis. In general, the Asian and Middle Eastern countries grow broilers until a lower end weight (1.8 kg) which will have an influence on the use of coccidiostats or coccidiosis vaccines. It is less common to vaccinate against coccidiosis in these countries, as the birds will not have enough time to develop immunity against all Eimeria species. In the US, heavy birds (> 4 kg) are a large part of production and in this case the birds have enough time to benefit from the immunity development as stimulated by the vaccination.
Furthermore, there are huge differences in the availability of coccidiosis vaccines in different areas/countries. In Europe for example, only attenuated vaccines are allowed, whereas in most other parts of the world, non-attenuated vaccines can be used as well.
All these differences will result in a different approach towards coccidiosis control and will influence the coccidiosis pressure.
Lesion scores in various European countries increased significantly in the months after the outbreak of the war in Ukraine. Gut integrity was apparently challenged by changes in feed formulations.
[Feedinfo] Can you take us through the different elements of your coccidiosis control portfolio?
[Ben Dehaeck] Huvepharma® can offer solutions for every aspect of coccidiosis control to customers around the world. Coccidiosis control starts with thorough cleaning and disinfection of the poultry house in order to reduce the coccidiosis pressure as much as possible. Even though it is not possible to eradicate the parasite, we offer the hygiene products crucial to reducing the infection pressure as much as possible.
The second step in coccidiosis control is to prevent the exponential development of the parasite because of the damage which it causes in the animal. The prevention of coccidiosis can be achieved by the use of coccidiostats in the feed, by vaccination, or by a combination of both.
Huvepharma® has marketed coccidiostats since its beginning in the early 2000s and its coccidiostat portfolio has expanded significantly over the years to incorporate ionophores, synthetics and combination products. Although the application of coccidiostats is still considered as the gold standard for coccidiosis control in many parts of the world, coccidiosis vaccination is gaining popularity. For example, in the US, the number of broilers which are vaccinated year after year is increasing. Recent estimates indicate that 42% of the broiler production in the US is vaccinated with a coccidiosis vaccine.
To complete the portfolio, Huvepharma® also offers options for coccidiosis treatment. For customers, it is a benefit to rely on one company that can provide a holistic strategy for coccidiosis control, as this ensures that advice is unbiased towards one part of the coccidiosis portfolio.
[Feedinfo] What is Huvepharma®'s philosophy when it comes to coccidiosis control?
[Ben Dehaeck] There are only a limited amount of products available to control coccidiosis and we need to keep all of them viable. There are no new molecules for coccidiosis control on the immediate horizon, so it is essential to handle all currently available products responsibly in order to safeguard their efficacy as much as possible. This can be done by respecting the recommended times for a product to be in use vs. out of use. Both are equally important and, in general, we can say that synthetic molecules should be used for a shorter period of time compared with ionophores, and even less compared with combination products. The best way to determine the optimal time for rotation would be by regular evaluation of the coccidiosis pressure. Monitoring at regular time intervals (at least on a monthly basis) can provide trend lines which indicate the evolution of the coccidiosis pressure (up or down).
[Feedinfo] Beyond the use of coccidiostats or vaccines, what are some of the techniques growers should be using to minimse their risk of coccidiosis or to mitigate the impacts of it on their birds?
[Ben Dehaeck] The first step in coccidiosis control is biosecurity and disinfection. We will never be able to eradicate the disease but we need to keep the infection pressure at the start of the flock as low as possible. This can only be achieved by respecting cleaning and disinfection protocols. Along with effective biosecurity, management must be optimised. This includes sufficient feed availability for each bird, adjusting the drinking lines to the needs of the birds, controlling ventilation in order to optimise litter quality, selection of sick birds, and so on. Basically it takes time, effort and experience to manage a poultry house correctly but it will definitely have a big impact on the risk of coccidiosis in a flock.
[Feedinfo] You argue that part of what distinguishes Huvepharma® in this area is the strong technical support it provides. What does that consist of?
[Ben Dehaeck] Huvepharma®'s technical support is unparalleled. This includes feed sampling, field or farm visits by technical experts, biosecurity advice, sampling oocysts, nutritional support, statistical analysis and sensitivity testing of the parasites. As Huvepharma® has a global presence, we can provide this technical support (veterinary, biosecurity, management) in all parts of the world. This support is crucial in a few ways: first, it helps to understand and map the specificity of each situation. Second, data collected during the visit or collected by the producers themselves can be entered in Aviapp® and used to analyse the situation. As every producer is confronted with different challenges, customised advice is of paramount importance. With the growth and success of Aviapp®, we identified the need for in-house and in-depth statistical analysis. The data is biological data and a lot of variables will determine the outcome of a flock. If the variables aren't taken into account, one could make assumptions and come to the wrong conclusions.
Beyond this, I would also like to point out that Huvepharma® is a privately owned company, which makes us flexible and agile. We are able to adapt ourselves to the local situation and can respond to individual customer needs. Huvepharma®'s leadership is based on continuous investment in local registrations of coccidiostats and in bringing new products to the market. Coccidiosis is an old disease but still extremely relevant, and we promise to stay on top of this problem and keep offering the best solutions to our customers.