Bird health and egg production have improved and breed targets been beaten following the introduction of a vaccine for infectious bursal disease (IBD) at the UK’s largest producer of colony eggs.

Neville Pennington, general manager of Oaklands Farm Eggs, told delegates at this year’s Avian Forum Roma that, following vaccination with VAXXITEK® HVT+IBD at day-old and the removal of four live, on-farm IBD vaccinations, good, even body weights have been achieved and overall bird health had improved.

Egg production had also risen, with more than 95% productivity being achieved in the new enriched colony cage system. At 67 weeks, the flock’s egg production was still above breed target.

Oaklands Farm Eggs has two million laying birds and is the largest producer of colony eggs and the second biggest egg packer in the UK. Pullets are reared from day-old on three sites, one of which has laying hens.

Mr Pennington said that, prior to the introduction of VAXXITEK® HVT+IBD, the company had struggled with chick quality, IBD and Marek’s disease affecting flock performance and chick uniformity.

The efficiency of immune responses in chickens is crucial when trying to achieve the best performance and return in investment, Merial’s UK avian manager Helen Houghton told the meeting. “In all animals the immune system builds a solid protection against infections to maintain optimal health.

“Protection of the integrity of the immune system is absolutely essential in order to be able to express a broad and effective response when elicited by various wild micro-organisms or vaccines.”