On behalf of healthy animals

Health Services in Zell are responsible for all matters relating to animal health. They work with on-site advisers to animal facilities and specialists in other departments. Health Services have an overview of the entire production chain.

The team consists of two veterinarians, which at first glance seems very manageable. But this first impression is misleading. The same two veterinarians oversee the entire poultry production chain. And this is what makes the remit of Kathrin Kühni, the Head of Health Services, very special. In integrated poultry production, her job includes looking after the broiler chicks, vaccinating their parents and providing guidance regarding hygiene, ventilation or even coop construction.

How do the two of you handle this?

"The two of us alone can't manage hundreds of partner fattening farms. Our department functions more as a specialist unit and point of contact for all employees and partners who are involved in raising and caring for the animals. Our team is supported by advisers who inform us about the situation of the animals in their coops."

A typical Health Services deployment is triggered by the fattening farms. A rising number of deaths after the chicks have been transferred to the poultry house warns the farmers that something is wrong. An adviser is called to inspect the poultry house, search out the sick animals, examine the dead animals and generally investigate specific issues. Armed with this information, the veterinarians can order measures, such as the administration of antibiotics. They're mostly concerned directly with the parent animals. Kathrin Kühni explains that the focus falls on giving the broiler chicks the best possible start in life. Vaccinations are an important tool here. "We take each animal in hand twice before immunity is guaranteed." At such sessions, they vaccinate up to 8,000 animals with the help of four to five advisers and other support staff.

Diseases and pathogens are part and parcel of the everyday routine of Health Services. "It's not always easy, and very often it's quite sad," says Kathrin Kühni. She tells about a flock where antibodies against Newcastle disease were found. Switzerland applies a zero tolerance policy to this disease. In other countries, vaccination against Newcastle disease is permitted, which leads to the presence of antibodies. This flock was erroneously vaccinated at the foreign hatchery. Kathrin Kühni sighs: "Nobody wants to kill animals that are basically healthy. But our hands were tied by the law."

Do you pursue a superordinate objective in your work? 

"As veterinarians, we want to interfere as little as possible but as much as necessary. This is why we meet with the animal producers, advisers and planners to discuss critical issues in the production chain. If we want to achieve our objective, we have to keep an eye on the entire production chain, from the poultry houses to the abattoir." When it comes to veterinary issues, they have access to a network of specialists.

Complicated and more critical cases are discussed and solved with other veterinarians or the National Reference Centre for Poultry and Rabbit Diseases. "We're part of many processes and are integrated into a wide diversity of teams," says Kathrin Kühni. The variety of the tasks handled by Health Services is impressive. Their know-how is applied everywhere it's needed – on behalf of healthy animals.