With a production of nine million chickens a week, the veterinarians of Sanderson Farms have their hands full monitoring the creatures’ health. Serological research plays a vital role in this. To compare and analyse the test results, for some time they have worked with BioChek II software. Software that is fully tailored to the wishes and needs of Sanderson Farms. Dr Phil Stayer explains things further.
Sanderson Farms is one of the largest poultry-meat processing companies in America. The company has nine hatcheries and ten processing plants. It also works intensively with around 800 chicken farms spread around Texas, North Carolina, Georgia and Mississippi. Dr. Phil Stayer is the corporate veterinarian for Sanderson Farms. Together with two other veterinarians and a team of highly-trained field specialists, he works daily on the health and welfare of the poultry. “Our team members help the chicken farmers on location to ensure that the animals grow up healthily. Careful attention is paid to general health, but also to the growout house climate and the feeding programs. These field specialists are vitally important for us. After all, as veterinarians we can’t be everywhere. If they spot something in a farm which is not in order or which they don’t trust, then we are notified. They send us photos showing their findings. Then we try to produce a diagnosis, discuss a possible intervention and then carry out supplementary laboratory research.
Stayer explains that the health of the animals has top priority for Sanderson Farms. That’s why routine flock health checks are the order of the day. Necropsies are performed alongside serological tests. “By default we perform necropsies of healthy animals to see whether specific disease signs are present, such as stomach or intestinal problems for instance, or parasitic disorders. This is entirely preventive, but hugely important for us. After all, even without any clinical signs, there could be a subclinical disorder or illness. This is why we carry out routine necropsies as a matter of course. Once a week serological tests are also performed on at least one farm of each of the chicken production areas.” Stayer points out that the animals are serologically tested for infectious bronchitis, Newcastle, Gumboro and Reovirus. “We’re also devoting increasing attention to intestinal viruses such as Chicken Astrovirus. We found serological evidence of chicken astrovirus in hens and progeny of ‘white chick’ syndrome associated with excessive second to third week dead embryos and resultant poor hatchability. ”
Speed and ease of use
To maintain, compare and analyse all the serological test results, the veterinarians of Sanderson Farms use the BioChek II software. “We have a lab conducting a great deal of serological testing daily. With the three of us, we have to be able to interpret all these test results quickly, easily and well. And certainly given the volume of testing and our other responsibilities, we don’t have a lot of time for this: we need software to help us. In our case that’s BioChek II. This software is excellent at comparing and analysing the desired data, so that we get the information we need.” He continues: “At the same time I also need to be absolutely sure I am getting all the data: no matter where I am, and when. With a chicken farmer, in the headquarters or in a plane… To ensure that all the required data is present, the BioChek II software automatically updates itself so that all the data is automatically up-to-date. BioChek has added that functionality; and it will improve even further as time goes on.”
Phil Stayer is satisfied with the software. “Right now it’s the very best software package for serological testing among poultry. For me, there’s no argument about that,” he says with conviction. “The IT team of BioChek has consistently improved the software, furnishing it with updates and modifying it to meet our needs. So it’s tailor-made, as it were. And if we need a specific expansion or modification, the IT team responds to this quickly and satisfactorily. Often we want something to be ready yesterday. BioChek takes that in its stride.” But with a wink: “Even if they never quite manage that deadline of yesterday!”
From vendor to partner
When Sanderson Farms was searching for a new software package for serological testing, it approached a number of vendors. “In the first place, BioChek’s offer was good in terms of both price and package. The price-quality ratio was excellent, and better than that of other suppliers. But we wanted more. More than BioChek and the other vendors initially offered. To our question as to whether an expansion of functionalities and improving the ease of use was possible, only BioChek responded positively. We wanted speed and ease of use, tailored to our day-to-day work so that we could do that work more quickly, and better. We need to compare data easily and draw the right conclusions: that’s where BioChek was more than successful.” Stayer considers the future. “We’re not there yet. As I already mentioned, Sanderson Farms always wants more, always wants better. That’s a facet of our company. We want to be state-of-the-art on all fronts. BioChek shares that philosophy. As far as that’s concerned, I regard BioChek not just as a vendor, but as a high-quality partner. A partner who works alongside us in striving for excellence!”