Biomarkers and big data: early warning system empowers producers

In Brief

  • Blood biomarkers and machine learning enable early-warning system in poultry; detecting health challenges like coccidiosis and heat stress.
  • Big data analytics and on-farm blood tests improve poultry productivity, identifying issues and guiding corrective actions.
  • Precision livestock tools revolutionize poultry management, optimizing factors and predicting disease incidence.
  • Blood biomarker analysis provides efficient root-cause identification and monitors vaccine response in poultry, preventing production losses.

Enhanced Insight and Timely Intervention

By leveraging blood biomarkers and harnessing the power of big data analytics, producers have the opportunity for a greater understanding of health challenges at a subclinical level - before they escalate and cause significant losses. As input prices soar and the demand for sustainability intensifies, the urgency for efficiency improvements in poultry production has reached unprecedented levels.

dsm-firmenich’s product, Verax™, is an advanced early-warning system – utilizing blood-based biomarker analysis to unveil a wide range of subclinical health and nutritional challenges within the poultry sector. This cutting-edge system has the capability to identify key challenges to productivity and profitability such as coccidiosis, necrotic enteritis, acid/base balance issues, welfare issues, heat stress, compromised immune responses, and deficiencies in calcium or phosphorus levels. By decreasing mortality by just 0.5% in a broiler setting responsible for one million birds per week, producers can realize an estimated additional annual revenue of US$ 1.2 million(1).

(1) Assuming 6.5lb birds at November 2022 prices in North America

Combining data and experienced eyes

This newfound insight allows producers to overcome assumptions around bird health causes and effects. The poultry industry has historically lagged behind other sectors in adopting digital technologies. However, the emergence of precision livestock farming tools is bridging this gap. Real-time monitoring, alongside visual assessment of flocks, aids in objective assessments of bird health. While early-warning systems utilizing blood-based biomarkers provide detailed cellular-level insights. By predicting performance issues and offering actionable suggestions, this technology enables producers to pinpoint the root causes of challenges more efficiently. Moreover, the implementation of Verax™ yields significant improvements in labor utilization while simultaneously reducing the environmental footprint associated with poultry production.

Reviewing management assumptions

A prime example is the discovery of high DOAs (dead on arrival) at processing plants, often attributed to heat stress. However, by analyzing a wide range of biomarkers, we identified hypoglycemia in this flock. This valuable insight redirects our customers' focus away from additional investments in solutions like fan installations and shading, prompting them to investigate feed grind size and feed intake variances instead. The ability to accurately identify the underlying issue and take appropriate action saves producers substantial time and money. Realizing the true power of resolving problems with precision in poultry management. Testing all assumptions is therefore a great way to achieve marginal gains in management.

Another example is using blood biomarker analysis to examine the immune response factors like albumin and globulin protein movement, following vaccination. In one case, a customer noticed inadequate immune response in their birds despite a well-designed vaccination program. Through further investigation, it was discovered that the vaccine had been stored improperly by being frozen, compromising its efficacy. By analyzing blood biomarkers, it became possible to identify which farms received the properly stored vaccine batches and which received the compromised ones, aiding in pinpointing the issue accurately.

Earlier opportunities for improvement

Another compelling application of Verax™ involves the prediction of potential problems before they manifest. A notable early-warning system, already proven on-farm are Verax™ blood-based biomarkers that deliver a comprehensive understanding of animal health at the cellular level, where diseases originate. By analyzing blood samples collected from on-site birds using machine learning software and comparing them against benchmark industry data and peer-reviewed research, Verax™ can predict potential performance issues and offer corrective action suggestions within a matter of hours. Ideally, processing the blood work of 100 birds per house, once every quarter, establishes a baseline for in-depth problem investigation even before they arise.

By focusing on biological processes, insights derived from blood biomarker analysis can indicate the likelihood of disease incidence or nutritional deficiencies without relying on clinical symptoms, when often it is too late. Verax™ can be seen as an advanced warning enables producers to proactively implement preventive and corrective measures, supporting production efficiency, animal health, welfare, and overall sustainability in poultry management.

Enhancing coccidiosis detection and severity assessment

Coccidiosis, an intestinal disease with significant economic repercussions, leads to billions of dollars in losses worldwide due to mortality, reduced body weight, and preventive and therapeutic expenses. It also increases the susceptibility of birds to necrotic enteritis. An early-warning system becomes invaluable to producers when it provides precise and accurate insights for implementation.

Researchers have successfully validated a model that predicts coccidiosis early for Eimeiria Maxima, identifying different stages of enteritis severity within each farm up to 8 days before visible symptoms appear (Figure 1). This advanced warning translates into significant financial improvements for farmers, along with enhanced overall health and welfare for the birds.

Figure 1. Coccidiosis (Cocci) and field enteritis (FE) mapped at different stages of severity using machine learning and blood biomarkers | Source: dsm-firmenich

The path to better practice

The integration of blood biomarkers and big data techniques marks a significant turning point in poultry production. This innovative approach empowers producers with early warnings and comprehensive insights, enabling them to take proactive measures, mitigate losses, and optimize production. As the poultry industry embraces precision livestock farming and data-driven decision making, the path to improved efficiency, profitability, and sustainability becomes clearer than ever before.

Best practice until nowBest practice from now on
Quantifiable data from research in lab setting; hard to replicateQuantifiable data from your birds, in your environment, via blood test
Detect disease and nutrition issues through visual cues in postingsDetect disease and nutrition issues days before visible cues, in time to reduce disease transmission
Decisions based on visual assessment and on-site expertiseDecisions based on hard data, peer-reviewed recommendations and on-site expertise

Published on

14 September 2023


  • Precision Service
  • Poultry
  • Coccidiosis
  • Necrotic Enteritis

About the Author

Scott Cavey - Senior Director Precision Nutrition & Health, Animal Nutrition & Health at dsm-firmenich

Scott leads the development and expand services and diagnostics to enable precision nutritional advice and build functional capabilities for farm data. He graduated in Agri-Business Management from Montana State University and started his career In the feed business. After 13 years in animal nutrition, Scott led Ag technology companies providing industry-leading SaaS and on-premise software offerings. As CEO of E-Markets, he built a SaaS business, that reinvented the Seed industry using the web to process orders and distribution through farmers, retailers, distributors and manufacturers, into a Gold certified Microsoft partner with software products that brought Microsoft technologies into the Ag retail and grain processing industries.


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