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Feed Prices and Poultry Health: Hot Topics at the UK Poultry Meat Conference

20 September 2012, at 5:24pm

UK – On 18 September 2012, the UK poultry industry gathered at Stoneleigh Park in Warwickshire for a one-day conference, which covered the hottest topics in the industry, from feed and grain prices to health issues, writes Nuria Martínez Herráez, ThePoultrySite editor.

John Cessford, from BOCM PAULS, was the chairman for the session and he opened with remarks about the papers which would be presented that day and thanking the organisers and sponsors of the event. The main sponsors for the event were: MSD Animal Health, Cobb, Aviagen, P.D. Hook, BOCM PAULS and Elanco.

Graeme Dear, General Manager at Aviagen Ltd, took the lead with his paper "Sex, Drugs and Rock and Roll" on breeding and use of antibiotics within the poultry industry. He pointed out how bird breeding has changed throughout time and how important, in economic terms, genetics improvements are for the poultry industry.

He talked about the challenges that the poultry industry faces (for example, to feed a growing population) but also the great opportunities poultry producers will have in the coming years.

Regarding the use of antibiotics within the poultry industry, he pointed out the voluntary ban on the use of Excenel in day-old chicks introduced by the BPC on 1 January, 2012.

Although the main reason for limiting the use of antibiotics is the avoidance of bacteria resistance (above all, concerning human bacteria resistance), he emphasised the power of Western European media on this issue and how it is extending across the globe.

He focused on ESBL's and AmpCs, clarifying they are not bacteria but enzymes produced by bacteria, and he gave some details about what has already been done and the results in this area.

Feed Costs

Steve Wilson, Head of Monogastric Development at BOCM PAULS, presented a paper on nutrition titled "Feeding Poultry in an Increasingly Volatile Market". The volatility on the traditional raw materials market should make producers think about what they should be looking at in feeding their chickens. For instance, should it be a reduction in diet costs? Should it be a change in raw materials instead?

He pointed out there has been a shift on diet design over last decades and there are several factors involved in order to design chickens diets (nutrient responses, bird genetics, performance aspirations, raw materials availability and their cost, etc).

Wilson explained we might need to consider giving a chance to some raw materials which have been kept out of poultry diets over decades, mainly, due to "old taboos." He mentioned barley, sorghum, oats, triticale (cereals) as well as wheat DDGS, rapeseed meal and legumes (proteins).

To summarise his paper, he highlighted that poultry producers need to have a clear idea of what they are trying to achieve (i.e. maximise body weight or maximise live weight, among others) and know what their birds responses to nutrients are, along with their genetics. These factors will help in the design of the most appropriate diet for the birds along with challenging the current constraints on raw materials and a better understanding on how processing can improve the diet value.

Coccidiosis

Luis Canseco, Poultry Veterinary Advisory at Elanco offered a paper on poultry health. "Gut Health Overview in Broilers," focused on intestinal integrity in broilers and he also mentioned an initiative made by Elanco to fight world hunger in developing countries like India.

He gave some highlights on the three main coccidiosis species affecting chicken's health: E. acervullina, E. maxima and E. tenella.

According to Canseco, in order to prevent coccidiosis, environment, immune system and anticoccidials are all keys. If just one of them fails, producers will probably suffer some coccidiosis cases among their birds.

He explained how the peak (the day when coccidiosis is detected) and lesions are different depending on the species affecting the bird. He offered some data which surprised the attendees: coccidiosis lesions are higher during the summer (although the reason remains unknown).

Regarding global hunger, he gave some details about the Heifer project by Elanco. This project is trying to teach Indian families how to produce their own chickens by giving them some chickens to breed. After one year, Elanco will take the breeders back in order to provide another family with the same opportunity. The first family will keep the chickens they hatch themselves and will continue breeding their own chickens.

Broiler Production

Tom McKeown, Broiler Manager at Moy Park, presented the paper "Broiler Growing My Way". He offered a brief history of the company, founded in 1943 and based in Northern Ireland, and explained the key of their success: employee satisfaction is taken seriously and they are provided with regular training in their fields.

He also pointed out the importance of having a close relationship with the growers belonging to the group as well as with and the authorities (DARD, AFBI, IPPC) in order to work together on poultry industry issues.

Regarding their production systems, he emphasised that they moved to windowed houses in 2002. Moy Park is also the largest producer of organic and free range chicken in the UK, with 120 small farms in Northern Ireland. In order to accurately collect the data provided by the different farmers belonging to Moy Park, they set up a website which helps farmers to collect and provide data on weights, daily mortalities, water consumption, etc.

McKeown highlighted that good information collection is vital and Moy Park offers a farm perspective which make them deal well with numbers of people every day.

Poultry Health

The fifth speaker of the conference was Philip Hammond, Poultry Veterinary Consultant at Crowshall Veterinary Services. His paper was a veterinary update covering several health issues in the poultry industry.

First, he addressed Campylobacter, its prevalence and methods for assessing it, using a recent research project.

Second, he talked about Enteroccus septicaemia and its increase within the last six months and its likely connection to antibiotic removal.

Third, he mentioned myopathy (generally seen in processing) and its likely economic impact for the industry.

Fourth, he explained there was still no known cause for the hypoglycaemia complex and there are probably several causes involved rather than just one.

To end his paper, he talked about antibiotic stewardship and how important it is to keep humans using antibiotics properly and the benefits for humans from a good use in animal health.

Poultry Protein for the World

Philip Wilkinson, director of 2 Sisters Food Group, was in charge of the final conference roundup. After showing a movie on growing population and the food industry, Wilkinson talked about how the food industry would be able to meet the demands of the growing global population.

He mentioned the shift in the situation for emerging countries like India or China whose citizens would be able to afford and, therefore, would require more food products (meat, fruits, dairy products, etc). This will lead to a rapid growth in raw agriculture commodities.

He explained to the audience the opportunities for the poultry industry: not only are chicken and turkey more environmental friendly than other kinds of meat but also their feed conversion is better, plus they are healthier and more versatile.

He mentioned the importance of nutrigenomics as a way of better understanding bird genetics.

Moreover, he emphasised that the UK poultry industry needs to compete on a level playing field. Wilkinson explained the need for UK producers to have the same governmental requirements as foreign producers to achieve this competitiveness.