Dr. George Gould
Dr. George Gould is a graduate of the Royal Veterinary College at the University of London. His areas of expertise include broiler intestinal health and coccidiosis.
Intestinal Integrity Scores and Their Impact on Bird Performance
Data and analytic tools offer producers resources to more precisely manage their flocks' health and introduce timely, location-specific intervention strategies as the poultry industry continues to focus on the judicious use of antibiotics.
One such data and analytic tool is the Intestinal Integrity Index (Index) which provides an overall picture or metric of broiler and turkey intestinal integrity.
The Index considers more than just coccidiosis lesion scores. It measures 23 intestinal conditions such as gizzard erosion, necrotic enteritis and excessive intestinal fluid to name a few. These intestinal conditions are all monitored and measured by necropsy during routine Elanco Health Tracking System (HTSiTM) postings.
Each lesion or condition is assigned a specific score and weight based on a clear scoring guide, and collectively these weights create a custom, composite number that is entered into the HTSi database.
Scores range from 0 to 100, with a score of 100 representing no detection of lesions or compromise to the intestinal health of the bird. Each of the lesions scored within the Index is weighted based on the degree of detrimental impact it is estimated to have on intestinal health. Intestinal health is a key driver of broiler and turkey performance, so it is ideal to have scores as close to 100 as possible.
Poultry producers can benefit from the Index in several ways:
- The Index simplifies a complex set of lesions into one easy-to-digest score for gut health and the score correlates to performance. As the score decreases, on average, so will bird performance
- Monitoring and benchmarking intestinal integrity scores over time can help identify trends that may have an impact on bird performance
- The score can help producers understand which lesions are having a specific impact on birds and their business which enables more targeted interventions
Predicting the Impact of Intestinal Integrity on Performance
Intestinal Integrity Index scores are calculated within the Elanco HTSi, a comprehensive database integrating more than 20 years of data and more than 600,000 individual bird post-mortem analyses.
With the assistance of an Elanco Technical Consultant, producers can track and benchmark the health of their birds over time, evaluate a broad range of health conditions and identify potential health issues early. These health and performance insights can be a contributor to data-driven flock health management, helping identify which lesions are causing health issues. This leads to more strategic and targeted interventions.
For example, a posting session may identify intestinal lesions that lower the Index score of a flock from 100 to 90. Previous HTSI data analysis has found that a one-point decrease in the score has been shown to drop feed conversion ratio (FCR) by 0.0013. Therefore, an Index score of 90 could indicate a loss of 1.3 points of FCR, which in modern-day production equates to around one cent of additional cost per bird.
That’s the value of the Index, it not only monitors and tracks intestinal integrity issues, but can help producers understand how intervention strategies are performing. Having access to an overall measure of gut health — that has been independently proven to correlate with the key performance indicators producers use to measure success — help us prioritize and direct interventions in a way that not only improves bird health but improves the performance of the birds and the business.
Knowing your Intestinal Integrity Score Isn’t Enough
If a producer is enrolled in the HTSi program, they will receive an Index score on every bird posted. However, just knowing the Index score of your birds is not enough. This is where the conversation and consultation begin and where Elanco can truly add value.
Elanco Technical Consultants have expertise in poultry health and specifically intestinal integrity; through this knowledge we can help producers interpret the data, identify what lesions are driving the scores, and provide specific recommendations or approaches. For example Elanco Technical Consultants can help design appropriate coccidiosis control strategies, litter management, chick management, ventilation, etc. to enhance the intestinal health of your birds.
To learn more about the Index score and the HTSi, contact your Elanco technical consultant.
Coccidiosis in chickens