Vetagro Journal Club, #1

Did you know that some production diseases may cost you more than what you are making?

Did you know that by implementing the right measures you can save up to 50% in your production system?

Of course we all know that, at least in theory, but the problem lays within the fact that despite most of the literature about poultry research claims “important financial losses” when referring to these diseases, there is little or almost zero evidence of the real economics around it and, most importantly, how it is really calculated.

But let’s start from the beginning.

Over the past 20 years chicken consumption has greatly increased and nowadays it constitutes about 40% of meat consumption worldwide. The chicken meat sector has responded by intensifying egg and broiler production, but not all that glitters is gold: it is under the eyes of every producer that an increase in the so-called “production diseases” can generate inefficiencies and dramatically affect the revenues. The reduction of production incomes occurs mainly by loss of capital (due to decreased meat and egg production or increased mortality) and treatment cost of these illnesses.

This month selection is a systematic literature review that takes into account those scientific studies that focused on the financial impact of poultry production diseases and the magnitude of the same.

Data from both large- and small-scale studies have identified nine main illnesses as the largest economic burden: ascites, infectious bronchitis, coccidiosis and clostridiosis, dyschondroplasia, foot dermatitis, keel-bone damage, salpingoperitonitis and feather pecking.

As far as broiler production,  coccidiosis and clostridiosis are the most expensive ones if uncontrolled: they have the highest incidence (90%), and reduction in performance as measured by physical ouptuts and conversion rates (-16.40, -17.7% for clostridiosis and coccidiosis, respectively). Uncontrolled clostridiosis can cost up to 0.32€ per bird, while coccidiosis is slightly lower, at 0.21 €/bird. Considering that broiler production in the EU had margins as low as 0.1€/bird in 2013, it is easy to understand how the consequences of uncontrolled disease can be disastrous. As far as laying hens, numbers tend to be a little more forgiving as hens have a longer life cycle and tend to have higher margins compared with broilers.

However, it is significant how these costs can be taken under control by implementing the right preventive measures and the sooner we act the better return on investment we have. As an example, for enteric diseases only, interventions like dietary supplements, antimicrobials and vaccines can bring down the costs by almost 50%. What is critical though, is determining the efficacy and the real benefits of these interventions, and selecting those that are really worth investing on. Studies that can generate large scale data, inclusive of epidemiological and financial estimates, but at the same time keeping a rigorous approach in data collection and analysis, are a must-have to make conscious and sound choices.

We should definitely go beyond the academic research perspective and generate data adopting an interdisciplinary approach that involves both scientists and agricultural economists.

That’s all for the moment, enjoy the reading and stay tuned for next month’s paper.

Read the full paper on CSIRO PUBLISHING: Click here