The vital importance of poultry gut health was a hot topic at the recent World Poultry Congress held in Paris, with Elanco Animal Health presenting data linking the Intestinal Integrity (I2) score to a host of key sustainability metrics. 

Tom Hepburn, Elanco knowledge solutions technology & analytics leader, told delegates that gut health should be prioritised, with I2 scores providing a key benchmark for efficient and profitable broiler production. This was a sentiment echoed by other speakers at the symposium, who discussed the importance of formulating rations to maximise return on investment and the impact of coccidiosis on gut health. 

“Poor gut health can have a serious negative economic impact on broiler businesses, proving even more costly during periods of high feed prices and overhead costs. It typically results in increases in feed conversion ratio (FCR), feed costs, mortality and days to slaughter.”

Hepburn explained that there is also a knock-on-effect on important parameters for social and environmental sustainability, with poorer I2 scores linked to a rise in antibiotic usage as well as an increase in the feed, water and space required per kilo of poultry meat produced.

When it comes to improving gut health and Intestinal Integrity, Hepburn encouraged the broiler industry to make the most of health tracking system (HTSi) data to better understand the financial benefits of managing I2 and to inform decisions about management interventions. 

He also advocated monitoring the level of challenge across the birds’ life cycle and adapting the management approach accordingly.

“It’s best to use field data to identify where performance is at currently and to identify areas where improvements can be made. This insight can prove particularly helpful in selecting the most suitable solution to manage coccidiosis, which remains a significant threat to the health and Intestinal Integrity of broilers, with poor levels of control costing £10.5 billion per year world-wide[1].

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“HTSi data has highlighted some trends in western Europe, that suggest the peak of E. acervulina challenge is moving slightly earlier and lasting longer. This may warrant an adjustment in coccidiosis management protocols,” he said.

Discussing ionophore solutions, Hepburn explained there are several on the market and some are more targeted towards improving I2 and overall health and performance.

This includes those containing the active ingredient narasin, which trial data shows outperforms the active salinomycin in terms of both weight gain and feed conversion.

"A new European trial shows that narasin gives significantly better average daily feed intake (ADFI), of 3 to 8 grams per day, and higher bodyweights by 640 to 110 grams, an increase of between 2-3.6% compared to salinomycin. It offers a return on investment of 3:1 based on FCR and 4.6:1 based on bird weight[2],[3].”

What is I? [BOX]

  • The Intestinal Integrity (I2) index is a unique, weighted index that assesses the intestinal health of flocks captured in Elanco’s HTSi.
  • It is made up of 23 intestinal health lesions, including coccidia to give a score between 0 -100.
  • The program was established in 1995 and includes data from over 2 million broilers.
  • Iis correlated to key performance metrics, for example, for every one unit increase in I2, ADG increases by 0.04g and FCR improves by 0.13 points.