Over 55 producers attended the Alberta Agriculture Flock Talk meetings in December, which focused on troubleshooting vaccine application and sprayers, and reading and interpreting serology reports. Leanne Cooley from Grayridge Farms and Harold Echeverry from Merck covered a significant amount of content. Over 95% of producers attending the sessions indicated that “yes” they would be implementing new practices on their farm as a result of attending the Flock Talk. One producer commented that the session offered “the kind of information and hands on learning that [he] needed” and another wrote that the information on titres was “eye opening”.

Some of the key messages from the session included the following:

• When receiving vaccine from the hatchery it is important to check the temperature and make sure it has been handled properly. Your vaccine shouldn’t arrive in a regular bag it needs to be in a cooler!
• Consider whether a small fridge has the proper temperature control to effectively store vaccine product. It matters where in the fridge you keep it!
• When preparing vaccine with water, the recommendation is that the water is 2-6 degrees. If you prepare the vaccine with 20 degree water the virus will start to die.
• For killed vaccines only (they will come in a big plastic bottle and are often white and thick) you should take them out of the cooler and get them to room temperature (ex. 6-12 hours) so that when they are injected they don’t cause too strong of a reaction.
• Skim milk powder protects the integrity of the vaccine but there are some better things for this purpose because bacteria feed off milk powder and it can create biofilms.
• Purpose designed stabilizers can also help you to assess your vaccination because they have dye. You can check 5 birds in spots throughout your flock and you will see blue dye in the cheek or tongue. If it isn’t blue they didn’t drink it! If you do 100 birds the target is 95% show blue.
• The industry is seeing a lot of changes at the hatchery level and changes with the birds themselves (lighter, more eggs per hen housed, coming into lay sooner, etc.) With all of these changes there is more of a need to start to pull bloodwork to deal with the unknown.
• Hatchery vaccine programs are general guidelines – everyone needs to take that program and figure out how it might need to be adapted for their farm.
• Generally, the best time to take bloodwork is after the third live but if results are poor it may be worthwhile to go back and do bloodwork after each live to better understand where things are going wrong
• When spraying, one of the best ways to improve titres may be to do at least two passes per cage – consider the volume and spray rate of your sprayer. Working the same row twice consecutively may be better than working each row individually and then coming back for a second pass because birds aren’t going to re-pile in the same con figuration in a short period of time.
• If doing water, think about the linear feet of water line you are starting with. It might be helpful to time yourself and understand how long it takes you to mix up your vaccine. How long does it take to flush and charge water lines? You need to allow 45-60 minutes of drinking time with the active virus/vaccine.

As a follow-up to the Flock Talk, and to provide as much of the information as possible to producers who could not attend, the following has been posted to the producer website:

• Copies of the presentations given by Leanne and Harold
• A digital copy of the poster that was handed out, put together by University of Alberta
Capstone students
• A titre chart that indicates target level titres for different vaccines at each boost
• Information on serology testing available in Alberta and how to take bloods

This information is available at:
http://www.albertaeggproducers.ca/best-production-practices/Poultryhealth/