Consumer demand for chickens, turkey, pork and beef raised without the routine use of antibiotics is growing steadily. Although antibiotic-free production in the meat market only accounts for about 5 percent of meat in the United States, its growth trajectory is transforming the broader market.
The production of chicken raised without the routine use of antibiotics has become part of the mainstream motivated by personal health, environmental concerns, animal welfare, taste and quality concerns
The largest chicken buyers in the United States are responding to the trend of raising antibiotic-free chickens.
In early 2015, McDonald’s, the largest and most iconic food chain in the United States, announced that in two years it would only serve meat from chickens raised without the use of medically important antibiotics in its 14,000 national restaurants. Chick-fil-A, the largest chain in the United States in chicken sales nationwide by sales volume has pledged to serve only 100 percent chicken without antibiotics by 2019. Chick-fil-A announced that a As of March 2015, it would have converted 20 percent of its chicken supply.
The production of antibiotic-free chickens has resulted in the largest producers of the poultry industry in the United States are working in their production operations to change the way these birds are bred
Problems in antibiotic-free poultry production (ABF)
Among the biggest problems in antibiotic-free poultry production (ABF) we have:
- Increase in the cost of production between 10-15%
- Decrease in the productive parameters compared with birds produced conventionally
- Greater difficulty in maintaining low mortality
- Greater difficulty in maintaining the welfare of poultry
- Greater challenge with necrotic enteritis and dysbacteriosis
In the production companies that dedicate part of their production to chickens without antibiotics or in companies where all of their production is of this type, communication is a vital part of the success of raising chickens without antibiotics
The communication starts from the owners and the managers of the companies to commit themselves with the investments and the strategies that the antibiotic-free poultry production implies. From this point on, interaction and communication between the different departments of the production companies (nutrition, veterinary, purchasing, production, marketing, sales, etc.), including the farmers who interact with the birds every day, is vital importance to establish the changes, strategies and expectations in poultry production free of antibiotics.
The importance of management
It is important that the production part establish programs that include the management of breeders (raising and production), incubators and farms.
Management of breeders
In the management of breeding animals, establishing biosecurity protocols, vaccination programs that are monitored and readjusted according to the circumstances, the breeding of the birds and the nutrition that is fundamental for an adequate development of the progeny are important points to begin with. a suitable way with the birds that are going to do destined to this type of production.
Another important factor in breeding management is the handling of the eggs. The main objective in the handling of eggs is the reduction of the bacterial load they may contain. With proper handling in the egg package, the hygiene where the eggs are stored, the temperature, the prevention of the dirty cushions of the nest, dirty belts, and dirty boards we can achieve a bacterial reduction of the eggs that are going to be designated for poultry production free of antibiotics.
Designated incubators for antibiotic-free poultry production should be as clean as the birthrooms in which you would like your child to be born
Additional scrutiny of sanitation practices is suggested as part of the programs to be established in antibiotic-free poultry production. It is recommended to establish a monitoring program in the incubators that contains the following steps:
- A defined objective Monthly realization
- Easy to set up and fast
- Easy to evaluate, understand and follow through time
- Achievable goals
- Perform at appropriate times that do not interrupt the normal operation of the incubator
Sending birds that have not been stressed with excessive heating or chilling during incubation, hatching, storage in the incubator before being dispatched to farms, transportation to farms and in the farmed area on farms is a factor important to consider in the success of the breeding of birds in the poultry production free of antibiotics, being able to be evaluated with:
- Sanitation controls of incubators in a routine manner
- Checks of the chicks in the incubator and farms
- Percentage of mortality at 7 days of life of the chicks
- Respiratory problems (post-vaccine respiratory reactions)
When the chicks arrive at the farms, proper management and pre-established programs begin to play an important role in the success of raising the poultry in antibiotic-free poultry production.
The first two weeks of life of the chicks on the farm are the most crucial for the development of the birds. Having established programs that constantly assess the basic principles of breeding (food, light, beds, air, water and space) will allow to make the necessary adjustments to be successful in bird programs in poultry production free of antibiotics
Factors to consider when handling
- Rest time between flocks
- Handling beds
- Bird density
- Feeding strategies
Having comfortable chicks during the rearing increases the feeding and water intake of the birds, triggering the development of maturation of the intestines (height of the intestinal villi and depth of the crypts) and a better utilization of the available nutrients in the food of the birds.
Six hours after housing the birds on the farm more than 95% of the swish from an evaluation of at least 150 chicks of the flock should contain food. Avoiding bed consumption during this period is very important, since excessive bed consumption leads to birds consuming extra coccidia oocysts when they are building immunity against this protozoan, in addition to high amounts of harmful bacteria (Clostridium species). ) causing consequences in the development of the bird.
Prevent accidental restrictions of food in birds will minimize stress in birds to achieve the potential genetic development expected in this type of production
Poor handling during rearing, whether inadequate access to feed, increased ammonium, excessive feed intake after restriction or agglomeration potential due to lack of space, can affect success in antibiotic-free poultry production
Virus & bacteria
Populations of viruses and bacteria decrease rapidly in the stands after 14 days in the absence of the host, with 14 days being the minimum time between flocks to prevent the problems associated with short times between encasing in the houses of the birds from increasing. . An ideal time would be more than 18 days, but this can be a difficult period to achieve depending on the density restrictions and availability of farms in the company.
The management of beds is another critical point for success in raising birds free of antibiotics. Each company must establish its basic program that meets minimum requirements such as:
- Secure between 4-5 inches (10-12cm) of bed thickness
- Maintain the humidity of the bed between 30-40%
- Remove patchy areas inside the bed that can affect the health and development of the birds
The density of birds depends on the certification that the company has obtained for the production of birds free of antibiotics.
Usually when you have less birds in a certain space we will have less moisture in the bed, which means less pathogens and fewer infective coccidia oocysts that will reduce reactions to this protozoan.
Light and water characteristics
Other considerations during the rearing of birds are light and its intensity and water quality.
- Light can impact the feeding behavior of birds, motility and digestion of food. For this reason it is important to establish the programs according to the recommendations of the genetic houses and adjust them according to the management of your company.
- Water quality includes monitoring that involves the water supply sources of the birds to identify the mineral content and possible microbial loads that may affect the bird.
- The daily sanitation programs are an excellent tool to help in the prevention of the health challenges of the birds that can be introduced into the flocks through the water system.
Intestinal health management
The management of the intestinal health of birds is one of the key variables in the production of broiler chickens without antibiotics, starting with the establishment of a correct flora taken to the practice from the breeders and in the incubation plant.
Other variables that we can control for the establishment of the flora is the formulation in the diets of the food that these birds will receive during their upbringing, taking into account points such as
- Selection and quality of the ingredients
- Size of the ingredients and food particles
- Electrolytic balance of the diet
- Process of food production
- Use of additives in the food (enzymes, essential oils, encapsulated acids, prebiotics, probiotics, etc.) as a replacement for growth promoters
Dr. Pedroso in 2009 demonstrated that microbial flora can be transferred vertically from breeders to chicken embryos during formation or through the eggshell during laying, corroborating Dr. Klassing’s work in 1998 where he demonstrates that Microbial flora begins to settle in embryonic development when the digestive tract begins to differentiate and then when the amniotic fluid is ingested by the embryo before birth.
To continue with the establishment of an adequate balance of the microflora during those first days of life of the chicks in the whole intestine, they are required to feed as quickly as possible.
Disease control through vaccination
Another very important factor in the production of broilers without antibiotics is the control of diseases through vaccination. The control of coccidiosis in the production of broilers without antibiotics is carried out with the use of chemical anticoccidial programs or with the use of vaccines against coccidiosis.
The continued use of chemical anticoccidials for the control of coccidiosis is not a long-term sustainable program due to the gradual increase in resistance that traditional chemical anticoccidial programs can produce.
The development of a controlled immunity through vaccination is presented as an advisable option for the management of coccidiosis in programs of production of broilers without antibiotics.
Another alternative is the rotation of chemical anticoccidial products for short periods and the use of the coccidiosis vaccine as part of a rotational program.
The success in poultry production free of antibiotics requires a direct discussion of the people involved in the raising of birds and the union in the thought process to merge the different concepts that involve this type of production.
The attention to detail in the production system, understanding that each poultry complex will be different and may require its own approach adapted to the conditions of this type of production will allow a change in the transition from conventional production programs to programs of broilers without antibiotics more successful.
If there is a secret to antibiotic-free poultry production, it is that producers are using powerful tools to make their programs successful. There are no real secrets to the success of antibiotic-free poultry production.
Success is reduced to trial and error that leads to customized application and adjustment to develop a solid production program and superior execution of the foundations of poultry production.