Proactive steps poultry producers can take to reduce impact of heat stress
Each summer, U.S. poultry producers lose upwards of $165 million due to heat stress. Research shows, proactive management practices and timely support can reduce the impact of heat stress on flocks and profits.
“The key is to tackle heat stress preventively, through multiple strategies because once poultry succumbs to the effects of heat stress, producers cannot recover those days of lost production and growth efficiencies,” says Poultry Nutritionist Dr. Bob Stock.
Heat stress occurs when heat and humidity reach temperatures beyond a bird’s ability to thermally regulate their body temperature. Its results can be devastating, explains Stock, the Director of Poultry Research and Development for Ralco. “In an attempt to regulate their body temperature, birds will cut down on anything that requires energy, including water and feed intake. Their egg production slows, and growth is reduced.”
Studies of boilers and laying hens impacted by heat stress show:
- 16 percent reduction in feed intake
- 28 percent loss of egg production
- 32 percent reduction in body weight
- Reduced breast meat quality
Maintenance check-up: Without sweat glands, birds are unable to cool themselves properly. Producers rely on ventilation and water systems to help poultry mitigate heat-induced stress. Before heat events are in the forecast, producers should test their ventilation systems and clean and flush waterlines.
“Water intake is essential during heat events. By removing biofilms and mineral deposits, producers help ensure birds have consistent access to cool water,” Stock explains.
Day before/day-of electrolyte boost: External signs of heat stress are obvious - birds pant, squat close to the ground with their wings spread and feathers ruffled. As their bodies begin to overheat, they flush, releasing essential nutrients and electrolytes.
Research suggests adding electrolytes, probiotics and essential vitamins to their water 24-hours prior to a heat event, bolsters a bird’s water intake, reducing the risk of diarrhea and dehydration.
“Even without heat events, birds are always under some stress. Adding Avi-Lyte™ to their water right before and during a heat event, helps reduce the effects of heat stress by restoring vital nutrients and building up electrolytes to prevent dehydration,” explains Dr. Jessica Fox, Veterinarian and Director of Veterinary Services and Biosecurity for Ralco. “Probiotics maintain the balance of beneficial bacteria in the digestive tract during normal daily production stresses. They can also be used to restore beneficial bacteria lost during challenges, like disease or the flushing that occurs with heat stress.”
Along with probiotics and essential vitamins, Avi-Lyte™ also contains citric acid, which helps reduce pathogen load.
Daily boost of antioxidants: Heat stress negatively impacts poultry’s entire immune system and wreaks havoc on their intestinal tract. “Heat stress causes the bird's body to create an excessive number of free radicals, leading to oxidative stress,” Fox says.
Free radicals, Fox explains, are a normal result of a bird’s metabolism and utilized by the immune system to fight disease. However, when too many are produced, they damage the intestinal tract and cause an overreaction of the immune system. This creates inflammation, impacting overall performance, meat and egg quality.
Antioxidants neutralize free radicals, preventing them from causing further damage to the animal. Many plant-based nutrients are also antioxidants and can be found in the Microfused® Essential Oils contained in ProsperEO™, Ralco's water, and feed supplement.
Daily supplementation with ProsperEO supports poultry’s overall health. On-farm research shows when given daily, poultry experienced increased feed and water intake.
“We think the essential oil’s aroma attracts poultry to their water,” Fox says. “And research has found, the essential oils also trigger receptors in the digestive system to release brain chemicals that stimulate appetite.”
In a study on two different turkey farms, birds on the daily supplement weighed 1 pound more at 20 weeks than the control.
In addition to antioxidant-rich essential oils, the product also contains a prebiotic fiber, Actifibe®, to support growth and reproduction of healthy gut bacteria, and boosting the bird’s immunity.
“Heat stress or not, we ask a lot of these production birds. They are bred to apply all their energy to meat or egg production,” Fox explains. “Daily supplementation provides them with the support they need to maintain efficient functions in spite of daily stressors.”
To learn more about Avi-Lyte and ProsperEO and how these products can protect your flock and profits from heat stress, visit www.ralcoagriculture.com