Main research question
Worm infections are a bottleneck in laying hen farming, both conventional and organic. At the moment the only medicine allowed is the allopathic drug flubendazole to treat worm infections. However, there is a possibility that due to adaptations of European Legislation, a minimum of 48 hours after treating with flubendazole is needed as time frame to sell these eggs as biological ones. This will affect the income of the farmers. It is possible that treatment is currently being done too often and the use of alternative products could already reduce the infection pressure. The aim of the ALTBIOLEG project is therefore to provide the organic laying hen holder handles with regard to optimal use and effectiveness of these alternatives.
In this project it will be investigated 1) how the worm infestation on organic laying hen farms develops and 2) the relationship between worm infestation, production level and animal health. We use three indicators to attempt to estimate the degree of worm infestation on a farm. The indicators used will be the number of eggs per gram (EPG) in manure, the immune cells present in the blood of the laying hens and the presence of worms at autopsy. In addition, the effect of a number of alternative, natural worming products will be investigated. The effect of administering natural deworming products on the above indicators will be examined, as well as on productivity and animal health.
An important aim of this project is to obtain effective methods to keep the infection pressure by parasitic worms as low as possible while preserving the production and health of the animals during the entire laying round. If positive results are obtained, 1) the use of chemically synthesized allopathic veterinary medicines, more specifically flubendazole, will be reduced, 2) the financial losses resulting from waiting times imposed by Europe will be limited as much as possible and 3) optimal health and well-being of the laying hens will be obtained.