Canadian Poultry Magazine

Features Broilers Health
Anticoccidials in the Finishing Ration


November 30, 1999
By By Chris Davison

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Utilizing anticoccidials as part of the finishing ration for broilers may not be standard practice for poultry nutritionists, but it is for Shawn Fairbairn.

Working with producers in Alberta and Saskatchewan, Fairbairn, a nutritionist with New-Life Feeds in Saskatoon, is a big supporter of maintaining a coccidiostat in broiler finishing rations from 28 to 37 days. “I believe it optimizes our customers’ returns and prevents any potential problems,” he says.

The biggest issue Fairbairn sees with removing anticoccidials from the finishing ration is the potential to “create an environment where you allow coccidiosis to build up in the barn, cycle after cycle. You are basically creating your own enemy – that’s why you get an outbreak. It’s just building up a little at a time because you’re not totally controlling it. For me it’s like preventative maintenance on a vehicle.”

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But many producers and nutritionists opt to exclude anticoccidials in finisher rations primarily for perceived economic reasons. “People do the math and figure they can save about half a cent per kilogram,” explains Fairbairn. However, results from a recent Canadian study show that adding an anticoccidial in the finisher phase can indeed have a positive economic effect for producers.

Dr. Randy Bagg, Elanco Animal Health’s manager of research and regulatory, explains that the anticoccidial finishing phase benefit philosophy has been around for many years, but little research had been done to either validate or dismiss the economic portion of the argument. So in 2009, the company commissioned a study to examine the performance of Monteban, its in-feed anticoccidial, when included in the finisher diet. “The main objective of the research was to determine if there were any performance changes in things like growth rate, feed intake and feed efficiency, when the feed additive is part of the finishing rations,” Bagg says. Most common programs for broiler chickens involve both a product for coccidiosis control, which is usually removed from finisher feeds and a product for necrotic enteritis control. This research examined the impact when the two products were fed separately or together during the finisher phase.

In the study, three control groups were fed a common starter feed (Maxiban and BMD – bacitracin methylene disalicylate premix) until Day 21 and a common grower feed (Maxiban and BMD) until Day 28. Then, on Day 28, each group was switched to a specific finisher diet until Day 37. The three finisher diets included:

  1. Feed with Monteban (narasin premix) at 70 grams narasin/tonne until the end of the study.
  2. Feed with BMD at 55 grams bacitracin/ tonne until the end of the study.
  3. Feed  with Monteban (narasin premix) at 70 grams narasin/tonne and BMD at 55 grams bacitracin/tonne until the end of the study.

Overall, performance during the total grow-out period (Day 0 to Day 37) was similar throughout all treatment groups. However, the birds fed the treatment of Monteban (narasin) plus bacitracin (BMD), showed a statistically significant improvement in feed conversion at 2.006, or a four-point advantage, in the finisher phase (see Table 1: Results – Performance Day 28-37).

“Four points on feed conversion is very significant and provides a significant economic benefit,” says Bagg, who notes that the study also showed it costs one-third of a cent per bird to keep Monteban in the finisher phase.

For Fairbairn, the study adds some economic weight to his feeding recommendations at the finisher phase. “That kind of research justifies our reasons for bucking the trend and running the products right out to market. Research on this subject is quite limited so it’s nice to see some new information.”

“The whole idea of these programs is to control coccidiosis, and lesion scores tell quite a story,” explains Fairbairn.  When vets inspect the intestines of birds they establish a score to determine how badly an intestine was infected with coccidiosis. It’s a four-point scale. As the score goes up, feed conversion is negatively impacted.

“If a bird’s intestinal track gets damaged, this reduces the efficiency at which they can absorb the nutrients. You can be losing about two to four cents per kilogram just by moving one step in the wrong direction on that scale,” says Fairbairn.

“Generally, when you pull out the coccidiostat in the last seven days, there are those that say it’s okay to do that as long as you’re monitoring closely,” says Fairbairn. “But generally in the field, nobody is monitoring closely enough to know whether there is sub-clinical coccidiosis nibbling away at your weight and feed conversion. “Plus, that practice ignores the fact that a significant percentage of total feed consumption in commercial broilers occurs in the late stages before processing and performance improvements during this period can have a positive impact on profit potential.”

Bagg says the research confirmed what the company had seen in some European trials and anecdotal evidence that has been gathered over the years. “Monteban is a tool that we’ve had for a long time and this research reaffirms that it not only prevents coccidia and controls bacterial enteritis, but also delivers growth performance that ultimately reduces feed cost and improves profitability.”

Fairbairn notes there are also other factors that he and fellow poultry nutritionists consider when evaluating the benefits of anticoccidials in finish rations. For example, maintaining the anticoccidial ensures better quality litter until the end of the cycle. Simply put, when the finishing feed already includes the anticoccidial, there is less waste – and both the exiting and the incoming flocks are protected. This can be an issue on some farms, if there is a large quantity of finisher without an anticoccidial left over from the previous cycle. The producer, Fairbairn points out, also has the added assurance that the birds are protected when the cocci challenge can be among the highest.

Product note: Monteban is registered for prevention of coccidiosis and should be used based on a treatment rate of 70 parts per million (ppm) in withdrawal feeds. The product has a zero-day withdrawal.