Revealing the real cost of disinfection


By Jim Bigmore, managing director of hygiene specialists, Hysolv

Some years ago, a major UK broiler integrator tried a new anticoccidial disinfectant in a problem site. This was a brave decision as the product was at least 25 per cent more expensive than the product currently being used.

When checking the flock records, the owner of the integration noticed improvements in the flock’s performance.  He asked he farm manager: “What’s been changed?”. The worried manager explained that he was using a new disinfectant, but it was expensive. The owner retorted: “I don’t care what it costs, keep using it!”

The monetary benefits of a really effective disinfectant are real but can be difficult to see. The records from one large-scale integrator showed the advantages of switching disinfectant amounted to more than small change!

That statement by the owner showed why this integrated operation was one of the most successful in the UK. Put simply he understood the cost structure of his business.

Table 1 is an example of the costs for a typical broiler unit. But the principle works for pullet rearers, layers and breeders. The greatest expense per bird is the feed cost. If this can be positively influenced, the farm becomes more profitable. The next highest cost is for chicks (in layer farms this would be pullets). If the mortality of the chicks can be reduced, this also represents a major improvement in profitability.

The cost of disinfectant is hidden in the “other variable costs”. The two percent of other variable costs includes rodenticides, parasiticides, alkaline cleaners, disinfectants, as well as tea, coffee, etc. So, the actual cost of disinfectants would probably represent about 0.5% of all costs.

All disinfectants are not the same – despite manufacturers’ claims.  Farmers should check the official tests closely, advises Jim Bigmore.  The benefits can be considerable.

Our typical broiler farm is using an anticoccidial disinfectant to help reduce losses linked to coccidiosis, including losses due to poor feed conversion rate (FCR) and lower daily weight gain (DWG), poor flock uniformity and higher mortality.

The mathematics are simple – the approximate cost of the more expensive disinfectant amounts to 0.2% of total costs. Coccidiosis can result in loses to the flock of:

  • Increased mortality rate[i] of 35%
  • Poorer feed conversion of 65%

It has been estimated that between 95.6% – 89.1% of all economic losses in broiler flocks are caused by coccidiosis.[ii] [iii] Skimping on the cost of disinfection, could backfire in a very serious way.

Other less obvious benefits of using a good anticoccidial disinfectant may include improvement of coccidial vaccination by removing competing wild strains of Eimeria present in the house at the time of vaccination. Also, over the long term the removal of all Eimeria may also reduce resistance build-up by eliminating resistant strains at terminal disinfection.

While all these factors are specific to the anticoccidial disinfectant, the product is also reducing the risks from all other diseases, including those connected with bacterial spores. In short, an effective disinfectant applied at the correct dilution will help control a whole raft of other diseases.


“…….the most expensive product is actually the one that doesn’t do the job…..”


In the case of pullet rearers and layer farms, the same type of calculation is needed, but the disinfectants costs are proportionately lower than for broilers as the cost is spread over 19 and 53 weeks respectively, rather than six weeks for the broiler.

Instead of coccidiosis and diseases such as Gumboro disease, the major headaches for pullet rearers and layer farms include many viral and bacterial diseases, especially salmonella. As all egg producers are aware, the threat of salmonella being found on the farm can lead to serious consequences, while in the older hen the problem of red mite infestation can be an on-going problem.

The farmer’s dilemma is therefore to choose the best product to protect his business from these diseases.

Putting the boot in.  Some disinfectants are far more effective than others, despite having some of the same ingredients, asserts Jim Bigmore.

Table 2. The choice between a well-known cheaper chlorocresol disinfectant (the term “cost-effective” is not appropriate in this case) and a “more expensive” chlorocresol-based disinfectant.

EN = refers to European Norms (British Standards in the UK) that have been agreed by the member states of the EU as the common disinfectants testing regime.

DVG = theDeutsche Veterinärmedizinische Gesellschaft (German Veterinary Medicine Association) provide an equivalent function of disinfectants testing as DEFRA in the UK.

Each of the diseases/problems listed could have severe effects on the FCR, egg production and/or mortality. The lack of information about the efficacy of the “cheap” product, raises questions about the usefulness of such a product. If the tests had been conducted, why weren’t they published? Presumably, the tests simply haven’t been conducted and the dose rates have been estimated. A search through the internet also revealed that the dilution rate recommended in the UK for one particular product as a standard dilution, was twice the dilution (i.e. half the concentration) of that recommended by the manufacturer, who supplied the product to the UK distributor? This made the product look very cheap!

Each one of the diseases/problems featured in the Table 2 have consequences to the layer farmer. They range from depressed egg production to increased bird mortality or, in the worst case, culling of the whole flock. It is, therefore, important to use a disinfectant that is reliable and has been proven to be effective when used according to the instructions on the product’s label. It certainly should not be a gamble which, if unsuccessful, could result in severe losses for the farmer using the product.

It has been shown that bird health – and economic returns – can be influenced by an informed choice of disinfectant

High costs for disinfectants don’t always mean that they are the best.  However, it is interesting to note that in the DEFRA disinfectant comparison paper of 2011[iv] the more expensive products routinely performed better than less expensive products.

So, returning to the comments of the integration’s owner, his statement that the cost of disinfectant was not important, was absolutely true when compared with improvements in the FCR, egg production or bird mortality rates. It’s also noteworthy that the results after the use of the new disinfectant were so marked that he noticed them from the flock records!

So, it is well worth remembering that the most expensive product is actually the one that doesn’t do the job for which it was intended!


[i] The economic impact of infection with Eimeria spp. in broiler farms from Romania Adriana Györke, Zsuzsa Kalmár, Loredana Maria Pop, Ovidiu Loan Şuteu

[ii] Willi ams, R. B. 1999. A compartmentalised model for the estimation of the cost of coccidiosis to the world’s chicken production industry. International Journal for Parasitology29:1209-1229.

[iii] Bera, A. K.; Bhattacharya, D.; Pan, D.; Dhara, A.; Kumar, S. and Das, S. K. 2010. Evaluation of economic losses due to coccidiosis in poultry industry in India. Agricultural Economics Research23:91-96.

[iv] Ian McLaren, Andrew Wales, Mark Breslin & Robert Davies (2011) Evaluation of commonly-used farm disinfectants in wet and dry models of Salmonella farm contamination, Avian Pathology, 40:1, 33-42, DOI: 10.1080/03079457.2010.537303