Coccidiosis Control - Shuttle and Rotation Programs as Presented on
Behalf of Poultry Industry

Table of Contents

  1. What are Shuttle and Rotation Programs
  2. The Tools: Ionophores and Non-ionophores
  3. Factors To Be Considered in Designing Programs for the Control of Coccidiosis
  4. Winter or Summer Use
  5. Immunosuppression
  6. Withdrawl Period
  7. Why Use Shuttle and Rotation Programs

What are Shuttle and Rotation Programs?

They are management programs designed to prevent the development of resistance to anticoccidials thereby resulting in better gut health and feed utilization by birds.

Shuttle: refers to the use of two or more products during the grow-out of a flock. The reason for use of a shuttle is that results are better than if either drug was used by itself. The principle of shuttles is that the best drug is used for each phase of the grow-out i.e. most suitable drug is used for starter, while another drug is used for grower and finisher. Drug withdrawal period is the most important consideration for drugs that will be used in finisher feeds.;

Examples of reasonable shuttles are:

  • Coban:Stenorol:Clinacox (an ideal winter program)
  • Coxistac:Avatec - ideal for summer program
  • Coxistac:Stenorol - winter or summer program
  • Coxistac:Clinacox - winter or summer shuttle

Rotation: means that a conscious decision is made to change the drug(s) used at a given time in the future i.e. every four months, after two crops, go to a winter and summer program etc. The alternative to a rotation program is a continuous program where the same drug(s) are used indefinitely, usually until a problem develops, or until a new product is introduced on the market. Shuttle programs fit into rotation programs i.e. a decision may be made to use a shuttle program (Drug A and Drug B) for the summer of 1995. For the winter program other drugs may be used in a shuttle, or only one drug.

An example of a rotation program (change every 4 months) would be:

  • 1st rotation (May-August) - ionophore i.e. Coxistac
  • 2nd rotation (September-December) - non-ionophore i.e. Clinacox
  • 3rd rotation (January-April) - shuttle Coban:Stenorol

The Tools: Ionophores and Non-Ionophores

Rotations are only possible if drugs with different chemistries follow each other. Ionophores should be followed by non-ionophores.
* Maxiban has both an ionophore component (Monteban)
and a non-ionophore component (Nicarb)
** New-generation products

Factors To Be Considered in Designing Programs for the Control of Coccidiosis

Past Experience: This pertains to what drug(s) have been used in the past for an operation and the results obtained. An example would be if E.maxima was determined to be a problem (poor weight for age and feed efficiency but not mortality) then a drug(s) particularly effective against this species should be used for birds 3 weeks of age and older.

Species of Cocci by Phase of Grow-out Although there are occasional cases where massive infections occur with multiple species of cocci, generally we see an orderly sequence of infection in Ontario:

  • 18 - 28 days - upper gut E.acervulina
  • 25 - 35 days - mid-gut E.maxima
  • 32 - 42 days - caecal - E.tenella (although can occur much earlier)

Thus in planning shuttle programs we can use drugs that are particularly effective against the species expected to cycle at that stage of a grow-out

Winter or Summer Use

Besides controlling coccidiosis, drugs may influence the bird by such factors as water consumption, feed intake, heat tolerance etc. If one has difficulty in maintaining litter quality because of water quality (high sulphates) or poor insulation, then a drug that restricts water consumption would be a benefit for use in starting birds in winter months. In contrast, a drug that does not restrict water intake or decrease heat tolerance is essential for the summer months.


A coccidiosis 'Break' is often an indication of an immunosuppression problem (Mareks, Bursal Disease and/or Chick Anemia Agent). This is because ionophores depend on the bird being able to develop immunity does not develop, the bird is 'overwhelmed' with cocci and a 'break' occurs. Non-ionophores are warranted when one is dealing with an immunosuppression problem

Withdrawal Period

Food safety is the first priority, so drug withdrawal time must be respected. Those drugs that have a zero-day withdrawal give more flexibility in finisher feeds. However, if drugs restrict feed and water, they should be removed prior to marketing so birds have a chance for 'compensatory gain'.

Why Use Shuttle and Rotation Programs?

Resistance - this term is used to indicate a loss of protection by a product which may be recognized more commonly by poor weight for age and feed efficiency, rather than clinical disease.

It is well documented that resistance will develop to any anticoccidial that is used on a continuous basis. The ideal anticoccidial program should compensate for resistance that may be present to existing products and preserve the efficacy of new products. Shuttle programs do this by permitting use of the correct drug for each need. Rotation programs achieve this by eliminating resistance to a particular family of drugs by use of drugs with a totally different activity-mode of action.

Rules for Shuttle and Rotation Programs?

The basic rule for shuttles is to use the best drug for the purpose at hand. With the exception of Maxiban or Nicarb which are used in the started, non-ionophore usually follow ionophores. This is to prevent late cycling of coccidiosis in the grow-out. The key aspect of rotations is to alternate drug chemistries i.e. non-ionophores follow ionophores. Use of two ionophores back to back in a rotation is unlikely to give desired results.

Rotations vary from four to six month intervals for chickens (usually at least two crops) - and eight to twelve months for turkeys. Summer and winter programs are very appropriate for the Canadian market. Non-ionophores should not be used for longer than 6 months.

For more information:
Toll Free: 1-877-424-1300
Author: Dr. Maurice W. Smith
Creation Date: 27 March 1995
Last Reviewed: 27 March 1995