Intestinal integrity scores provide bird performance insights

Index can quantify and effectively track impact of gut health on bird performance.

August 18, 2020

3 Min Read
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While it is clear that gut health in broilers affects bird performance, it is not always easy to quantify and effectively track this, so Elanco Animal Health has developed a data and analytic tool to help poultry producers more precisely manage flock health and introduce timely, location-specific intervention strategies.

Elanco said the "Intestinal Integrity Index" (I2 Index) provides an overall picture or metric of broiler and turkey intestinal integrity, and poultry producers can benefit from the index in several ways, including:

  • Simplifying a complex set of intestinal lesions into one easy-to-digest score for gut health;

  • Correlating intestinal health to performance, because as the I2 score decreases, on average, so will bird performance;

  • Helping producers understand which lesions are having a specific impact on birds, which enables more-targeted interventions, and

  • Monitoring and benchmarking intestinal integrity scores over time to identify trends that may have an impact on future bird performance.

Dr. George Gould, a global technical advisor for poultry with Elanco Animal Health, said, “The I2 Index considers more than just coccidiosis lesion scores; it measures 23 intestinal conditions such as gizzard erosion, necrotic enteritis and excessive intestinal fluid. These intestinal conditions are monitored and measured by necropsy during routine health tracking postings.”

Each lesion or condition is assigned a specific score and weighted based on the degree of detrimental impact it is estimated to have on intestinal health, Elanco explained. These weighted scores — which range from zero to 100 — are combined into a custom, composite number that provides insight into a specific flock’s intestinal health. A score of 100 represents no detection of lesions or compromise to the intestinal health of the bird.

Scores are calculated within the Elanco Health Tracking System (HTSi), a comprehensive database integrating more than 20 years of data and more than 600,000 individual bird postmortem analyses, the company said.

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 and help identify which lesions are causing health issues to then target interventions more strategically.

Elanco said the value of the index is that it can quantify and effectively track the impact of gut health on bird performance. The company pointed to an independent study that demonstrated that intestinal integrity is correlated with many of the key performance indicators (KPIs) broiler producers are concerned about: average daily gain, feed conversion, mortality during the first week and percent livability.

“That is the value of the I2 Index: It not only monitors and tracks intestinal integrity issues but can help producers understand how intervention strategies are performing,” Gould said. “Having access to an overall measure of gut health — that has been independently proven to correlate with the KPIs producers use to measure flock performance — can help them prioritize and direct interventions in a way that not only improves bird health but improves the performance of the birds and the business.”

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