Hy-Line Italy Technical Seminar in Bologna

Lara Naldini


Hy-Line Italia, a market leader in the production of layers, has always been committed to providing after sales support and recommendations to ensure customers realise the highest genetic potential from their stock.

“The organisation of technical training days such as this today – explained Mr. Claudio Ambrogio, Director Hy-Line Italia – are both useful and necessary in order to have an overview of the current situation within our industry. Listening to and gathering up the comments and observations from our customers helps us address the key areas regarding the management of laying hens.

The seminar attended by over 80 delegates representing all sectors of the Italian poultry industry generated much interest and debate over a wide range of technical issues including – the use of light on layer farms; debeaking; a review of farming practices with the reduced use of antibiotics and enteric problems in layers and their causes.

After the opening procedures carried out by Mr. Massimo Graziani, Sales Manager at Hy-Line Italia the technical seminar commenced with the presentation of a paper by Dr. Ian Rubinoff, Hy-Line European Account Manager and Technical Services Veterinarian for Europe, Middle East and Japan International. In his detailed and interesting presentation Rubinoff illustrated how best to use light on farms to obtain a correct and rational stimulation in layers to ensure optimum performance. Poultry see and respond differently, compared to humans, to colours and light intensity. This is why management of light is a fundamental aspect of poultry production.

In many farming systems artificial light is used to increase the performance of pullets, layers and breeders. Currently there is a wide variety of lamps available in the market place to illuminate the interior of poultry sheds and these must be properly assessed. It is essential to understand what different lighting options are available to the poultry industry particularly in respect of laying hen management. It is also essential to understand the terminology and methodology associated with light management in order to achieve good layer production.

Dr Rubinoff illustrated the advantages and disadvantages of the various lighting systems currently available and gave reasons why, at present, the LED system is enjoying more and more acceptance. Although LED lights specifically designed for lighting poultry sheds are more expensive than other forms of light bulbs their use provides several advantages and benefits. Firstly LED lighting can be calibrated to improving bird productivity thanks to the considerable flexibility within the different installation options.

Additionally their efficiency rates are significantly higher than fluorescent and incandescent lamps. They also have the benefit of lower maintenance costs as a LED lamp lasts longer (20,000 – 50,000 hrs; equivalent to 3-8 years). These factors combined with energy cost savings has led to a greater usage of LED lighting systems. As LED technology improves and the understanding of its application for use in poultry operations gathers momentum and as this combination will lead to a reduction in production costs it is highly likely that the use of LED lighting will increase in the near future.

In her presentation Samantha Gadenne, the Nova-Tech Regional Business Manager for Europe and North Africa, tackled the much debated topic, especially with regard to Europe, of beak treatment. Nova-Tech Engineering was founded in 1992, based in Willmar, Minnesota (USA) they are manufacturers of robotic systems for poultry (PSP). This company, working closely with Hy-Line International, have developed machinery for infrared beak treatment (IRBT).

The presentation illustrated the accuracy and precision of the IRBT system by comparing results with birds that had been debeaked with the traditional method on farm at 7 to 10 days of age. The infrared light does not burn the beak as is sometimes erroneously assumed, it is in fact treating the beak tissue and as such inhibiting beak regrowth. The treated part of the beak will soften and fall off gradually.

The findings were illustrated from a European study involving three groups of birds – one group not beak trimmed – the second group treated with the infrared system – while the third group had their beaks trimmed manually.

The results were clear – the second group (IRBT) showed lower mortality (66% less than the control), 7 eggs more per hen per year (versus the non treated group) and 4 eggs more per hen per year (compared to the manually trimmed group). The infrared trimmed group also had better conversion rates with reduced costs throughout the laying period.

The Nova-Tech Engineering company recommend that the lamp power be adjusted to accommodate variations in strain, flock age, uniformity and growing environment. During her presentation Samantha Gadenne stressed the importance of using drip drinkers with a 360-degree activation and installing additional drinkers when housing flocks with infrared trimmed beaks.

In conclusion the advantages of using the PSP equipment to carry out infrared beak treatment (IRBT) were outlined as being: no blood loss; hatchery personnel can completely adjust the level of treatment; biosecurity levels can be controlled as a minimum of staff are involved in the operation; field results are good with respect to flock uniformity; feed conversion rates improve and 3000 to 3500 chicks per hour can be accurately treated.

Comparisons of human photopic vision (dotted line) with that of chickens.
Comparisons of human photopic vision (dotted line) with that of chickens.

Types of enteric disease in flocks of laying hens causes drops in levels of performance resulting in economic losses. Dr. Giovanni Tosi from the Forlì section of the Veterinary Institute Zooprofilattico of Lombardia and Emilia-Romagna (Italy) presented a comprehensive overview of these diseases.

His presentation was divided into two parts: the first part covered, with the aid of photographs, a resume of the pathology of intestinal diseases in pullet and laying flocks along with highlighting aspects that are still to be explored such as transmission and pathogenesis.

The second part of his presentation covered those non-specific enteric types which are not attributable to a specific causative agent but, however, are characterized by an imbalance between microbiota, gut and immunity.

The most known form of this disease is Brachyspira which is manifested by an increase in the number of dirty eggs; a reduction in egg numbers and a reduction in egg weights. This disease is not easy to pin down because, in tests conducted to date, it has not been possible to reproduce the disease.

With regard to coccidiosis, Dr. Tosi outlined the damage caused by the major forms of coccidia illustrating their effect on the duodenal tract in pullets and layers. E. acervulina; E maxima and E. necatrix that can affect the middle tract of the intestine. He also covered the typical caecal coccidiosis brought on by E. tenella which causes haemorrhagic and fibrinous damage.

Coccidiosis in laying hens is considered the main predisposing factor in causing clostridial necrotic enteritis. Coccidiosis in a subclinical form may lead to the appearance of necrotic enteritis that affects the middle part of the intestines with resultant exfoliation of intestinal mucosa (with a so called “bran” appearance).

With reference to layers, the presentation also covered the focal necrosis duodenal condition with necrotic lesions called “grey gut” caused by clostridia – a disease that to date has not yet been reproduced experimentally. That being the case diagnosis is determined by pathological history and isolation of clostridia. In laying flocks the problem causes a drop in egg numbers, lower egg weights and shell problems.

With the development of alternative farming systems an increase in Ascariasis has been noted in layer flocks which causes a drop in performance. An increase in Histomoniasis has also been noted and although this disease is generally associated with turkeys it is now being observed also in laying characterised with damage to the liver and cecum.

Another problem that was highlighted by Dr. Tosi was the malabsorption syndrome enteric viruses and he stated that this is a subject area still to be studied and researched. It is known that enteric viruses are involved in causing forms of malabsorption but to date it has not been possible to experimentally reproduce the virus. The disease spreads rapidly and within hours causes lesions in the intestinal villi. Many viral agents are involved from Reovirus to Rotavirus, Astrovirus to avian nephritis virus, and so on.

Another problem that was discussed was the so-called “White Chicks” disease noted in recent years in heavy breeder flocks in Europe, United States and Canada. One of the characteristic signs of this problem is a difficulty of pigmentation within the chicks (hence the name). Within the breeder flocks a slight and transient drop in deposition occurs along with a drop in hatching rates of 4 to 5% with this lasting for one to two weeks.

Affected chicks are of normal or reduced size with hepatic lesions and within these groups Astrovirus was often isolated.

In the second part of his presentation Dr. Tosi explained how a bird’s intestine often presents an anomalous picture where the causes of an infection may not be clear but can still be attributed to infectious agents. Often affected are the duodenum and the intestinal mucosa and problems can be assumed to be caused by incorrect feeding. The problems caused by these so-called non-specific enteric forms affect production performance such as egg pigmentation and shell strength. It is therefore important that the condition of the bird’s intestines is monitored as problems can be caused or can be affected by alterations in the intestinal bacterial flora.

To improve performance and to find substitutes for old form growth promoters, we must identify the molecules that have an anti-inflammatory effect in order to modulate intestinal bacterial flora.

Legislative and public opinion pressures regarding a reduction in the use of antibiotics in livestock farming has led to a revision of farming practices. What alternatives does the industry have? And how do we manage intestinal quality when faced with the intervention of non-specific enteric diseases?

Dr. Franco Calini, a Feed Industry Consultant, sought to answer these questions in his presentation. With clarity and precision Dr. Calini stated that we have to rethink our whole approach to these problems particularly with regard to intestinal health by implementing a paradigm shift.

Until a few years ago genetic effort were directed at seeking improvements in production levels: egg numbers per hen; weight; size and feed conversion. The current general concern over use of antibiotics and also the concern about their loss of effectiveness means we should no longer consider their use as a “factor in production levels”. Additionally, legislation on animal welfare has forced the industry to take account of other factors such as bird aggression or bird adaptability to living in groups.

In layer genetics, the challenge faced by the layer genetics is to extend the length of lay beyond 100 weeks.

Seeking birds with high production capabilities and reduced feed intake calls for concentrated digestible feed but such diets need to be checked for their impact on the bird’s intestines and the difficulty in maintaining homeostasis.

The intestines are really a marker as to how an animal interfaces with its environment and in the case of a hen the interactions both internally and externally are multifaceted. Its intestinal immune system or GALT (gut-associated lymphoid tissue) is of fundamental importance in every moment in the life of a hen. The hen’s goal is to manage immune tolerance so it does not react to pathogens which was traditionally the norm.

Homeostasis at intestinal level is a “fluid” process where matters are almost never constant. Trying to maintain optimal conditions for the absorption of nutrients while at the same time balancing gut flora one must mange the physical form of the feed, the dimensions of the particles/pellets and the dietary fibre. The aim is to increase the digestibility of the diet to combat any anti-nutritional factors in order to nourish not only the animal but also their intestines.

The correct approach, affirmed Dr. Calini, is to ensure the hens have all the “skills” required to manage crisis situations and, compatible with their genetic make-up, have the maximum ability to resist and maintain their equilibrium.