Francene Van Sambeek, D.V.M, MAM, ACPV Poultry Technical Consultant

Dr. Francene Van Sambeek is a graduate of Michigan State University. Her areas of expertise include broiler and broiler-breeder Intestinal Integrity, vaccines and animal welfare.

Best Practices to Establish an Effective Bioshuttle Program

Posted by Francene Van Sambeek, D.V.M, MAM, ACPV on 13 March, 2024

A bioshuttle program involves the strategic use of innovative technologies and practices to control coccidiosis and optimize bird health and performance. Various elements such as monitoring systems, automated feeders and precision nutrition are used to enhance efficiency in addition to promoting animal welfare.  

Vaccinations and anticoccidials, components of a bioshuttle program, work together to boost poultry health and are central to the effectiveness of a bioshuttle program. Through combining vaccinations with anticoccidials, producers can provide comprehensive protection against parasitic threats, improving the overall health of the flock.  

Veterinarians play a crucial role in implementing effective, data-driven bioshuttle programs. They have the expertise needed to interpret and analyze data collected from monitoring systems and can use the data to optimize vaccination schedules, adjust management parameters, monitor flock health and address issues.  

A veterinarian’s role in establishing an effective bioshuttle program 

The specialized knowledge and experience of veterinarians make them an asset to poultry producers implementing bioshuttle programs. Veterinarians have the depth of understanding needed to design tailored vaccination protocols that can effectively protect flocks against prevalent diseases such as coccidiosis. They also play a crucial role in guiding the judicious use of anticoccidials and can safeguard flock health by strategically deploying anticoccidials.  

Veterinarians also offer an extra set of eyes to observe the birds’ overall health and more specifically, intestinal health. Observation allows them to be able to proactively adjust vaccination protocols as needed and prevent excessive use of cocci vaccines. By documenting what they see over time, they can make informed decisions that promote intestinal integrity, minimize the risk of resistance and support the health of the flock.  

Data-driven decision making 

Bioshuttle programs should be data-driven to maximize their effectiveness and ensure optimal outcomes. Having access to data allows producers to adapt their strategies based on real-time insights.  

The Health Tracking System (HTSi) serves as a resource to producers to gather the insights needed to make informed decisions prior to the implementation of a bioshuttle program. Producers can leverage the HTSi data to assess flock health, performance, environment conditions and identify potential challenges, anticipate trends and adjust their bioshuttle strategies accordingly. Having access to data also allows for a timely response to disease outbreaks.  

By utilizing a data-driven approach, producers can track the effectiveness of their bioshuttle programs over time and identify areas for improvement and optimization.  

Starting at the hatchery 

By beginning bioshuttle practices early in the birds’ life, producers can proactively address potential health challenges and lay the groundwork for long-term success. The hatchery is important because producers are tasked with hatching chicks in a non-stressful environment. If chicks can be hatched without added stress, they respond better to vaccines.  

While at the hatchery, birds receive a full dose of a coccidial vaccine before going to the farm. Coccidiosis vaccines are comprised of live Eimeria, the species that causes coccidiosis. These vaccines work by triggering the immune system through controlled exposure to coccidia and cyclical presence. As the cycle progresses, immunity strengthens, however, live coccidia can potentially cause damage to the intestinal track.  

The coccidial vaccine is sprayed on, which can be a delicate process as there needs to be enough spray used to ensure each bird gets enough of the vaccine, but you can’t use too much, or the birds won’t dryoff and could potentially be chilled during delivery to the farm. If the birds do not receive a full dose of the vaccine, flock weight and uniformity can suffer because less birds in the flock will be protected. Rather, these unprotected, naïve birds face a full field challenge of cocci when placed on the farms leading to varied performance.  

By utilizing the birds’ own immune system and allowing them to start to develop immunity to coccidiosis before entering the farm, producers can reduce the risk of disease outbreak and minimize economic losses associated with coccidiosis. Birds with a developed immunity to coccidiosis are better equipped to thrive on the farm, which can lead to improved growth performance and productivity.  

Build upon your bioshuttle program with in-feed anticoccidials 

Integrating in-feed anticoccidials into a bioshuttle program offers several benefits including providing protection against coccidiosis throughout the production cycle and helping to minimize the risk of disease outbreaks. Using a bioshuttle program helps to control the amount of damage in the intestine and offers improvements in feed conversions and weight gain.  

When it comes to choosing an in-feed additive, producers can choose ionophores or synthetic chemicals, such as chemical anticoccidials. Both options are used to prevent coccidial infections, reduce the severity of symptoms and improve the performance of the flock. Ionophores help maintain intestinal health, improve feed efficiency, have a relatively low cost and minimal impact on beneficial gut bacteria. Instead of trying to eliminate coccidiosis entirely, ionophores allow a small number of cocci to replicate in the intestine and enable birds to develop their own immune response. 

When birds first arrive at the farm, they are fed starter feed that doesn’t contain any anti-coccidial medication. Birds go through 14 days of building immunity by not having any in-feed anticoccidial medication. Around day 15/16, in-feed anticoccidials are introduced to help mediate the amount of cycling that’s happening in the gut and minimize the damage of the coccidial vaccines that are attempting to stimulate the birds’ immunity response.  

The second feed that is run is typically medicated with an in-feed anti-coccidial product. If the medication is left in through the third feed, producers will likely continue to see improvements in performance and productivity. Continued use of in-feed anticoccidials helps protect the gut from any later cycling that might occur. 

Integrating in-feed anticoccidials into a bioshuttle program offers several benefits including providing protection against coccidiosis throughout the production cycle and help minimize the risk of disease outbreaks. Using a bioshuttle program helps to control the amount of damage in the intestine and offers improvements in feed conversions and weight gain.  

The collaboration between veterinarians and producers is an essential component to a successful bioshuttle program. Expert guidance combined with data-driven insights will help ensure your flocks remain healthy.  

An Elanco representative can help tailor an effective bioshuttle program and ensure best practices are in place. Contact your Elanco representative today.   

Elanco and the diagonal bar logo are trademarks of Elanco or its affiliates.



Intestinal Integrity