A new Poultry Health and Nutrition Unit, established to help poultry producers maximize performance through developing nutrition and health programs adapted to specific needs, was officially opened in mid-September. Located in Castilla-La Mancha, Spain, the unit forms part of Trouw Nutrition’s Poultry Science Centre.

According to Silke Birlenbach, Head of Global Innovation at Trouw, the new unit will contribute to the company’s mission of helping poultry producers raise output while, at the same time, respecting the need to protect human and animal health from the threats posed by antimicrobial resistance.

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The unit is equipped to manage studies ranging from routine trials evaluating carcass quality for meat processing to highly complex research reflecting challenging intestinal conditions and diverse production methods.

It offers four study rooms in which climate and environmental conditions can be replicated, including humidity, temperature and stocking densities, to simulate environments around the world, allowing trials to be adapted to producers’ specific circumstances.

Each room has 48 pens and stocking densities can be adjusted to reflect individual production practices, while seven water reservoirs per room allow randomized water treatments.

The unit also has digestibility and bioavailability cages to facilitate precision nutrition.

Microbiological technologies and data analysis support research at the unit and scientists are able, for example, to combine molecular biology techniques with traditional culture methods, and then conduct additional analyses in context with flock performance data.

Introducing the new unit, Trouw held a virtual opening with speakers drawn from academia and industry.

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Barbara Brutsaert, Global Program Manager Poultry with Trouw Nutrition explained that amongst the main areas in which the new unit would work would be in helping producers to end reliance on antibiotics. Globally, she said, antibiotic resistance is still rising, however, via a multi-stakeholder strategy, Trouw Nutrition could help producers to achieve smart antibiotic reductions, drawing on practical experience from the entire production chain.

Integrator experience

As part of the unit’s opening, Trouw invited Jose Maria Diez Gata, director of integration at one of Spain’s leading integrator Grupo Sada, which is working with Trouw Nutrition  to share his experience of the company’s transition to producing without antibiotics. Ninety-five percent of Sada’s birds are now raised without antibiotics.

Diez Gata noted that Sada had used an integrated feed-farm-health approach to reduce in feed use of antibiotics from over 40 mg per metric ton in 2015 to almost none now.

The company follows strict protocols and, amongst practices central to this change, he said, are sanitizing feed, assuring not simply potable but high-quality drinking water, using modern well-ventilated building and only sourcing high quality chicks.

There can be no use of antibiotics use in-ovo or in day old chicks and, when antibiotics are used, as a last resort, this can only be following thorough diagnosis.

Of perhaps, primary importance in the transition was training, he said, starting with veterinarians and technical teams, followed by farmers. While the transition may, at first have been difficult, particularly on-farm, problems were largely overcome within the first two years.  

Brutsaert noted that Trouw Nutrition’s approach, beyond the scientific expertise offered at the new unit, is to get everyone in the production team on-board, working with veterinarians and farmers and not replacing them.