Brachyspira on the increase in poultry flocks

More than 70 poultry producers heard at the recent Severn Valley Poultry Discussion Group meeting how brachyspira causes more damage to flock performance than previously thought.


Guest speaker David Burch, a veterinary consultant from Octagon Services, said that historically brachyspira had not been recognised as a problem in poultry production, but for the past four or five years, the focus had shifted dramatically.


At the meeting held near Ross on Wye, he outlined new findings into the disease.


“Brachyspira are spiral-shaped bacteria that live in the caecum of the bird’s gut and colonise there. What we wanted to find out is which species of brachyspira are pathogenic and therefore damaging and which are not. We have known about non-pathogenic brachyspira for many years and it can sit in the gut and not damage production. This was especially the case in cage birds.


“The results revealed that certain species previously thought to be non-pathogenic in cage birds could be associated with reduced egg production in free-range flocks.”


Therefore, the bulk of depressed production in free-range birds can be, in part, attributed to certain species of brachyspira. “The link with this disease as a major contributing factor to both lowered egg production and bird mortality has never been fully realised before.”


“The figures we have found are surprising: 70% of all laying flocks have brachyspira infections; this figure rises to a staggering 90% in free-range flocks. Infection is also rapid, with free-range birds susceptible to the disease from as early as week 22. We are also discovering that the organism can live longer than previously thought.


“It’s not good news for egg producers, especially free range,” concluded Mr Burch. “Identifying the best solution is a tough task. Antibiotics and vaccines are available and there are a number of specific things that a producer can do to reduce infection risk.”


Good pasture management and rotation was helpful. Reducing puddle areas by filling in holes and improving the condition of the pop-hole areas were also helpful as these areas got the most wear and were prone to contamination.


The speaker at the next meeting (29 July) will be Martin Humphrey of Humphrey Feeds. To book a place, call 01432 266 299.