Coccidiosis costs the poultry industry more than £450m a year, or 5p a bird, according to Luis Canseco of animal health company Elanco.
The most effective disease management was one that targeted three areas: the birds’ environment, their immune system and anticoccidials. “You take out one of them, you’re going to have a coccidiosis problem,” said Mr Canseco.
Elanco uses a health tracking system to better understand the disease, which has involved dissecting over 40,000 birds over the past 16 years. “We have data [in the UK] unavailable anywhere else in the world.”
This showed that the three strains of coccidiosis that affect broilers peak at different times.
E acervulina peaks at 23 days and affected 30% of the birds tested, Mr Canseco said, though the lesions were mild. “It’s there, but it’s not an outbreak. The birds are not going to die, but there is damage to the gut.”
E maxima peaks twice – at 28 and 34 days – as does E tenella, at 27 days and towards the end of the lifecycle. “This is when you get the phone call, because people see the blood (in the droppings) and see there’s a problem. But the problem is already there with the other species. That’s why it needs controlling constantly.”
Mr Canseco also said that many people thought coccidiosis was a bigger problem in the winter, but data shows higher incidences during the summer.