Thermal stress in poultry and mitigating strategies
by David Harrington, Species Leader Poultry, Delacon
From trying to keep chicken houses warm and well-ventilated in the depths of winter when external temperatures are well below freezing to keeping birds cool when outside temperatures and relative temperature creep outside of the comfort zone, thermal stress in poultry production can be challenging to manage. We often think of thermal stress, particularly heat stress, as a problem associated with tropical and sub-tropical climates but, while still true, heat stress is also a problem for temperate climates. Increasingly unpredictable weather patterns and hot summers could become the norm. Certainly, the evidence suggests the world is getting hotter. And with it, a risk of heat stress in poultry producing geographies that typically did not see problems before.
We know temperature extremes can adversely impact poultry production and associated economics, whether it be lost performance, poor egg quality or even death. Which is why strategies for mitigating heat stress are so important. Several chicken breeds are naturally more heat tolerant than others e.g. the New Hampshire Red or Rhode Island Red but these are not necessarily high yielding breeds (meat or eggs) that are required for large scale poultry operations. So, while genetics is an important factor in heat stress, mitigation strategies use other tools. These tools include house construction and management and feeding strategies e.g. managing water/electrolyte/feed intake, reducing excess protein or vitamin E supplementation, for example. An additional aspect of the feeding strategy is the use of feed additives, and additives based on plants are increasingly popular.
Which brings us to Delacon, plant-based feed additives (or phytogenics) and patents. Delacon is a leader in the field of phytogenic feed additives for livestock, with a dedicated R&D department and facilities where we can undertake research in a range of animal species including poultry. This commitment to understanding the science behind our solutions is what brought me to Delacon. And it is this commitment that delivered a patented phytogenic solution (Biostrong® Comfort) for heat stress in poultry. Based on a unique combination of natural essential oils and flavonoids, Biostrong® Comfort was rigorously tested both in vitro (to understand how it works) and in-vivo at our own facilities with external partners (to prove it works). When there is a risk of heat stress in poultry, I would rather use a solution that has been rigorously tested and understood to work than take chance on the unknown.