Vaccinations given during the pullet program are the backbone of the layer health program. These programs should contain vaccines against diseases that the pullets will be exposed to during lay. Consideration needs to be given to past disease exposure in the pullet-growing house, diseases present in the region to which the pullets will be moved, and whether the pullets are being moved to a multi-age complex that has a higher degree of disease exposure (such as to Mycoplasma gallisepticum (Mg), Salmonella enteritidis (Se), variant infectious bronchitis (IB) strains, etc.). Professional advice from a competent poultry veterinarian with knowledge of the disease exposure situation, vaccines available, proper timing of vaccinations, and appropriate routes of administration should be sought. An example of a vaccination program used for pullets going to a complex with high risk of exposure to infectious laryngotracheitis (ILT), Mg, Se, fowl pox, and variant IB is given in Table 1. Vaccine company representatives and consulting veterinarians should be involved to assist the persons vaccinating the flocks with proper techniques and to review these procedures on a routine basis.
Management practices used during growing can affect layer health as well. Improper beak trimming can lead to poor uniformity, increased cannibalism, and increased feather loss during lay. Poor feathering is a component of the increase in mortality seen toward the end of lay, with peckout mortality and bacterial infections commonly seen. The use of a lighting schedule that leads to excessive egg size will lead to problems in later lay due to poor shell quality (often blamed on respiratory disease), excessive feather loss, and increased peckout/prolapse mortality (reproductive tract damage).
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