September 14, 2018

Kinkyback or Enterococcal spondylitis is a condition that has been occurring more frequently in broilers as growth rates have increased and is a very difficult problem to correct. I personally worked in a complex that struggled with the problem for five years and it was a very demoralizing issue for everyone involved. There are a lot of very scientific articles out there that explain the complex condition from a diagnostic approach,
so this article takes a different approach. I can speak on my experiences dealing with it and some of the things that were tried with varying degrees of success. It impossible to list all the trials that were conducted and consultants that came into our complex to reduce the incidence of the Kinkyback. We had regular “lameness” meetings and did a ton of work to solve the problem. During the meetings, we maintained an action log and just to provide some perspective, it contained 100+ action items. I will focus on a few of the main players we determined through the process.

One major area of focus was overheating of chicks or embryos from incubation through placement. We spent a lot of time chasing overheating by controlling temps at ALL points in the process. This was accomplished by taking vent thermometer temperatures at all processing steps to identify root cause and find any correlation that may have existed in our process. Those of you that work in production know that this is not an easy task and there are many areas that must be controlled tightly, including: incubators, hatchers, chicks on the floor staged for delivery, temps in chick delivery vehicle and the process of placing chicks in the barn. Overheating is also tied to humidity control at all these steps. All these individual processes are very critical to the health of that chick and everyone involved in the overall process has to do their part at all times to ensure there is no heat stress on the eggs/chicks.

There are many other processes that could have impact and must be looked at and ruled out as possible issues. For instance, conformance to hatchery sanitation programs which would include a comprehensive swabbing and plating of hatchery to verify cleanliness and really auditing of all of the required processes, “inspect what you expect”. Temperatures in the washers at or above 140 will help to control bacteria growth on the hatcher baskets which is very important. I would also recommend a close look at all of the finished feed samples to ensure that the entire process of feeding the birds is being done as expected. Receiving ingredients, weighing, batching, mixing and pelleting is a complex process that also needs verification. If there are issues with protein, energy levels, cal/phos ratios or other nutritional factors can potentially lead to problems.

As we were chasing a solution, some industry folks indicated that the litter program in the grow-out barn played an important role. The theory being that reused litter contains a different “flora” that birds are exposed to as early as placement through litter pecking. In addition to built-up bacterial and cocci populations, reused litter has an increased absorptive capacity through the flock, which further influences the “flora” within that house. Putting an effective cocci program in place that utilized cocci vaccine and reduce late cycling also resulted in a reduction in incidence. Since I have left my position at this complex, the company has changed ownership and made multiple system level changes in addition to reusing litter and switching to cocci vaccine. It is a complex, multifactor condition that I know required major efforts and changes for the new ownership to improve the livability so effectively. As already alluded to, gut health is greatly impacted by the flora in the chicken barn as well as the damage/recovery from oocyst cycling. The ageold question became for us: how was the bacteria that was found in the back and femurs of the affected birds able to translocate within the bird? In our experience, the gut was a spot that could be a major contributor of the condition. With all the different things that affect gut health, we tried many different approaches to reduce the incidence. Since my departure from that position, I have been involved with some trials with probiotics including two that we currently sell at BVS, Gut Pro and Gut Restore. Barns that were affected on a regular basis and always seemed to have a problem with lameness were treated with both products and we developed a program of weekly treatments. Again, due to the complexity of the condition, it’s hard to “tease out the solution”. In my experience, there are multiple factors, but the probiotics did appear to help and there was some reduction in incidence on several of the treated flocks.

I cannot emphasize more that this is a complex issue and there are no “silver bullets” out there to fix it. Many of the things mentioned above would be considered best management practices but that is easier said than done. Water, air, feed, temperature and litter, these are the pillars of a successful broiler operation and each one needs to be understood and managed as expected with standard operating procedures in place and routinely audited.

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Wayne Sanders

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