Benefits of in ovo vaccination available to smaller hatcheries

Perception remains that in ovo vaccination technology is only viable for the large hatchery. While this may be the industry sector that has been quickest to adopt in ovo vaccination, it can play a valuable role in hatcheries of various sizes.

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To see Pfizer's Inovoject m in operation, visit
To see Pfizer's Inovoject m in operation, visit

It has been 20 years since in ovo technology first became available, and in some markets its application is unquestioned. Yet perception remains that this technology is only viable for the large hatchery. While this may be the industry sector that has been quickest to adopt in ovo vaccination, it can play a valuable role in hatcheries of various sizes.

The first commercial in ovo vaccination system was launched by Embrex—now part of Pfizer Animal Health Global Poultry—back in 1992. Since then, in ovo vaccination has become standard practice in the broiler industry in the two major poultry producing nations—the U.S. and Brazil. In ovo vaccination is currently used in more than 90 percent and 70 percent of the birds in these countries, respectively, and it is estimated that more than 15,000 million eggs annually are processed using in ovo equipment.

So what has made the technology so attractive compared to vaccinating day-old chicks?

Immediate and longer-term benefits   

While not all in ovo machines are the same or are offered with the same terms and conditions, there are a number of advantages to employing the technology that is common across the various offerings. In ovo vaccination results in the rapid development of a chick’s immunity to disease and should result in an improved immune response without interference from maternal antibodies.

On average, one person can inject some 2,000 chicks an hour, whereas an in ovo machine can inject tens of thousands of eggs. But simple throughput is not the only advantage of adopting an automated approach.

Reducing the human element not only means that the risk of human error is reduced, but also that the risk to operators is reduced and the stress experienced by chicks when vaccinated is eliminated. Chicks can also be transferred out of the hatchery more quickly and established in their grow-out conditions sooner. Of course, as labor costs increase, reducing staff numbers impacts positively on the bottom line as well.

In a global market, all producers need to be as competitive as possible, and with increasing consolidation in the sector, for those smaller players that want to continue to operate, maximizing efficiency cannot be ignored. Demand for meat, produced as economically as possible, continues to rise, and those companies that are able to meet this demand at an acceptable cost, at whatever stage in the process, will be those that survive.

Smaller hatcheries with lower throughput and less floor space may have shied away from adopting in ovo technology, yet there are options available that allow them to access the greater precision, reliability and efficiency enjoyed by their larger counterparts.

Variety of options   

A recent entrant to the market has been the Embrex Inovoject m from Pfizer Animal Health Global Poultry. This is a semi-automated device that allows an operator to introduce and remove trays. The equipment, which is mobile, has a work rate of 12,000-20,000 eggs an hour.

Inovoject m was used in a month-long trial at Frango Seva, in Pato Branco, Brazil, during which time some 800,000 eggs were vaccinated.

Marciano Regis Tonus, agribusiness director at Frango Seva, commented: “I believe that incubation plants that manage similar numbers to us could use a machine such as the Inovoject m. It is small, easy to use, and simple.”

He continued: “The most common problems with subcutaneous vaccination that we experienced was staff welfare. Sometimes, staff had health problems because of the repetitive nature of vaccination.”

Pfizer notes that its device has a floating injection head that adjusts both horizontally and vertically to ensure accurate delivery irrespective of individual egg shape, size or position; had dual-needle injection tooling, ensuring gentle, and accurate shell penetration and efficacious vaccine delivery; and consistent needle sanitation between each infection, reducing the risk of cross-contamination.

The Inovoject m is a semi-automated device that allows trays to be introduced and removed by an operator and has a working capacity of between 12,000 and 20,000 eggs per hour. Machines are leased and serviced throughout their life in the hatchery.

Variety of relationships   

Ecat in Ovo’s small-scale offering can work with 5,000 to 40,000 eggs per hour. The company highlights that its device has a dual speed injection combined with a single needle system; offers 100 percent enhanced livability of the embryo due to its dual speed injection system for gentle needle penetration through the air chamber and fluids; needle disinfection between each egg; automatic egg size adjusted injection; vaccine savings related to minimum piping and optional design of the equipment; a screen panel allowing easy access to all machine functions; a clean, efficient inoculation process; and easy cleaning and servicing.

The company notes that all its EggInject machines are built and tailored to customer needs, and sold or leased with an associated service contract. Among its smaller client hatcheries are operations in Italy, Spain and Japan.

David Van Grieken, general manager of Ecat in Ovo, comments: “To offer the same high quality of in ovo vaccination, smaller options have primarily the same technological options as the EggInject for bigger hatcheries. No concession is made on the options for biosecurity. Operational speed varies from 15,000 to 45,000 eggs per hour. Machines are serviced in the same way as those for higher volume hatcheries, and a training program is provided to make operators autonomous.”

Adopting the technology may not suit all hatcheries, and some devices and their associated support may be more appropriate to individual needs than others. Fully considered and properly applied in ovo vaccination technology can offer advantages to not only hatcheries, but to the smaller players as well.

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