Cargill Animal Nutrition and Health has developed D-Mite, a feed or water-based additive that can help protect laying hens from red mite infestations.

“Red mite infestations have escalated in the past decade, possibly resulting from more free range or aviary egg production systems,” says Daniel Palcu, Cargill’s UK poultry specialist. “The cost of controlling the parasite is estimated to have increased by 40% in this period.” If red mite infestations are not controlled, numbers may escalate rapidly, causing significant drops in productivity.

The company has trialled D-Mite on half a million layers in 14 poultry units in France with varying red mite infestation levels. The trials took place from May to August 2019; during the summer months when units are generally most at risk from red mite infestations. D-Mite was included in the layer feed. Cargill monitored water and feed intake when D-Mite was included and found that neither were affected. It has also monitored food safety and found that, even at higher dosages of D-Mite, results show no effect on the taste and smell of both raw and cooked eggs.

Red mites feed on birds at night, sucking blood and causing issues such as irritation, anaemia and feather loss. “In severe cases mortality will occur and conditions become unpleasant for unit employees,” says Mr Palcu. Discussing the trials, he comments: “Red mite populations were monitored regularly on these units and infestations were compared with levels recorded before D-Mite was used. After treatment, we recorded a reduction in red mite infestations across all units, with the most significant improvements seen in moderately and highly infested units. We also noticed an improvement in egg quality and an improvement in the working environment.”

Cargill claims that D-Mite is easy to use either in liquid form for using through drinking water systems or as a powder for including in feed. The powder form is approved for use in organic egg production systems. “D-Mite is a natural feed product that provides egg producers with a safe and effective mean of controlling red mite infestations,” states Mr Palcu. “It promotes the health and productivity of laying flocks, especially in the summer months when they are more likely to come under the pressure of red mite infestations.”