An Increasingly Important Food Source 

Eggs for breakfast, chicken for dinner: it’s an age-old meal formula the world over. And it's only getting more popular—in the last 20 years or so, the poultry industry has grown an astonishing 520%1 to support an increasing demand for high-quality protein by a middle class emerging in more and more countries. While there are still plenty of “backyard” chicken farmers around, realistically the vast majority of the world’s meat and egg needs are supplied by large, end-to-end poultry businesses that face unique challenges to keep their animals healthy, and the foods they provide safe, high-quality, and secure.  

Consider the size of a chicken compared to a cow, or even a pig: it requires many more animals to produce comparable quantities of food, so poultry producers are often managing literally thousands of birds. And chickens are susceptible to several highly infectious diseases that spread readily and rapidly. Once established, many virus-borne diseases can't be treated, so preventive vaccination is important—but must be carefully calibrated to both chickens' unique immune systems and today’s production environments.  

Simplifying Vaccine Administration  

Infectious bursal disease (IBD), for example, is a highly contagious, virus-borne disease of chickens that causes serious illness, poor growth, and even death, and can wreak economic havoc on poultry businesses. Yet conventional IBD vaccines experienced interference with the birds' immune systems that could compromise the vaccine efficacy. To overcome this challenge, Merial used advanced vector technology to develop our VAXXITEK® HVT + IBD poultry vaccine, which provides effective IBD protection that's compatible with the unique workings of chicken immunobiology. 

Interested in a more technical explanation of this complex interplay between the IBD virus and vaccines?  

Successful vaccine administration also requires close attention to the details of the production environment. With hundreds or even thousands of birds to care for, poultry producers need efficient, labor-saving methods. VAXXITEK allows for just a single injection to day-old chicks at the hatchery, rather than multiple doses to adult chickens on the farm.

Nevertheless, a lot of labor still goes into individually injecting thousands of tiny chicks by hand. That’s why one of the biggest breakthroughs in avian medicine in recent years has been in-ovo vaccination: inoculating unborn chicks while still in the eggs. Not only is it much easier and less prone to error, it also guarantees the birds’ protection from the moment they’re born. In some countries, the majority of chicken producers already use in-ovo vaccination, and the technique is being rapidly adopted in the poultry industry worldwide. Merial now supports this trend with the newest addition to our avian equipment portfolio: the Ovo-Jector™. 

The Ovo-Jector is an advanced, mass-injection machine developed by Merial to allow the precision vaccination of up to 35,000 eggs per hour. Using an easy-to-learn, multi-language touchscreen, poultry producers can adjust the Ovo-Jector for three different egg sizes, as well as easily track and monitor usage data. The machine is flexible for use with varying numbers of eggs—with no waste, since it automatically senses if any individual egg compartments are empty and doesn’t vaccinate them. We piloted the Ovo-Jector with several key customers in Brazil and China in 2014 to great success, and we’re preparing to roll it out to the wider global poultry industry starting in 2015. 

See the Ovo-Jector in action!    

Most importantly, the Ovo-Jector, VAXXITEK, and all our avian vaccine products are backed by the support of Merial’s avian Vaccination Technologies and Services (VTS) group. In addition to developing innovative machinery, specialized syringes and spray devices, and storage and mixing equipment, VTS dispatches field experts to farms and production sites around the world, helping them fine-tune their facilities, vaccination plans, and on-site processes to optimize the health and productivity of their birds. 

Because eggs for breakfast, chicken for dinner: that’s definitely not a formula that’s going away.

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1. International Federation for Animal Health